Managing Physicians May Be Impossible

Philip Betbeze, April 19, 2013

I realize the headline above is provocative.

In fact, most physicians I know probably don't even appreciate the insinuation that anyone could even ask the question, never mind whether it's possible or not. And I get that. No one who learns and trains as long and hard and goes into debt as much as physicians do is much in the mood to be told how, when, or where to practice medicine once they're past that personal finance nightmare.

You read that headline, and all the tropes about managing physicians come to mind—that it's like herding cats, it's a thankless job, and, best of all, that it's impossible.

If it is, we're all in for trouble, because healthcare is bankrupting us. Everyone needs to be managed, whether they're the president of the United States (managed, at least in theory, by the voters, and checked by Congress and the courts) or a country doctor. If not, we get what we have now in some cases, which is management without data; management without evidence (incidentally, that's probably one reason physicians have historically so hated to be "managed").

I doubt if he would appreciate me attributing this quote to him—so I won't—but as a good source told me in a recent conversation, "the era of the "M-Deity" is over," referencing the abbreviation for the term medical doctor.

Strong words. I asked him what he meant.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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