According to a a major study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week, almost half of physicians surveyed (over 7,000 physicians were surveyed), reported at least one symptom of burnout. As a recent article in the Atlantic points out, although physician burnout may not be news to most physicians who are living with the realities of shrinking reimbursements, growing costs and increasing administrative burdens, the general public may not have a real understanding of what this means for them. Given the financial and time investment required to become a physician, the health care reform debate likely scared a lot of folks away from attending medical school already.
For the public, fewer physicians surely means less access to care. More people may have insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act but insurance coverage will do little to address the impending access problem. Interestingly enough, however, this shortage is likely to have a silver lining for physicians who choose to stay in practice: short supply means higher demand and higher demand is likely to mean increased reimbursement. In other words, those hearty souls who elect to continue to brave the storm of medical practice over the next couple of years will likely be able to demand higher reimbursement rates for their services. In fact, some doctors may find that patients are willing to pay cash to avoid waiting for care. Stay tuned – the pendulum may be swinging back before you know it.