Physicians Inch Toward Boiling Point
Lack of a Cohesive Voice
Another major problem for physicians, as Ray sees it, is that they are not represented by a forceful organization. "There is a systematic, endemic series of problems," Ray says. "Everywhere there [are] defensive medicine, regulation issues, reimbursement issues. We are all in the same boat. But physician representation is balkanized. There is not a national organization that represents a majority of physicians."
One of the largest organizations, the American Medical Association (AMA), only represents 15% of physicians, according to the Physician Foundation report. That's in sharp contrast to the early 1950s, when about 75% of physicians were members of the AMA.
A coalition of state medical societies has coalesced, and groups of activist physicians have formed organizations, Ray says, but that hasn't been nearly enough to prompt change. "It's pretty hard to counter the full force of the federal government and the huge insurance companies," he says.
No wonder the survey finds that physicians are "at a tipping point" as they seek ways to "further disengage from today's medical practice environment, reducing their hours, decreasing the number of patients they see and accepting the status of salaried employees–trends that should be of urgent concern to both policy makers and the public."
Ray can relate, and if this report is a bellwether, soon others will recognize the ramifications, too.
Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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