Physician Frustration Grows, Income Falls -- But a Ray of Hope

Mark Crane


April 24, 2012

In This Article

How Many Hours Spent on Patients and Paperwork?

About 30% of physicians spend between 30 and 40 hours in direct patient care, a slightly higher percentage than in Medscape's 2011 survey. Just under one quarter (22%) of physicians spend less than 30 hours per week in direct patient care, likely due to working part-time, as well as to paperwork and administrative demands.

Dermatology leads the specialties in fewest patient care hours: 52% of dermatologists see patients from 30 to 40 hours per week.

As far as number of patient visits per week, the largest percentage of physicians (21%) saw between 25 and 49 patients per week. About 23% of physicians see between 100 and 174 patients per week. Radiologists have the most patient visits; respondents report having over 200 patient visits per week. Dermatologists are the next busiest: 46% see between 100 and 174 patients per week, as do 42% of ophthalmologists and 32% of urologists.

Although some patients feel that they are barely seeing their doctor, physicians generally spend a decent amount of time with each patient. The 13- to 16-minute patient visit is still the most common, especially in pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.

Female physicians tend to spend more time with each patient. "It's a generalization, but women are often more nurturing than men, more hands-on," said Aburmishan.

Dissatisfaction With Being a Doctor Grows

Medscape's 2012 report showed far more dissatisfaction among doctors. Although over half of all physicians would choose medicine again as a career (54%), that's considerably down from 69% the previous year. Only 41% would choose the same specialty again.

About one quarter of all doctors would choose the same practice setting, compared with 50% a year ago. There was little difference in satisfaction between male and female physicians. Dermatologists were the most positive about their specialty but are less satisfied than in last year's survey. Plastic surgeons were the least happy about their practices; only 41% said they were satisfied overall, compared with 66% who were satisfied in last year’s report.

"The elective side of plastic surgery has been hit hard by the economy, so plastic surgeons are making less than they did in better times," said Bohannon. "General surgeons have long felt shortchanged. They take more call and make less than other surgeons."

"The doctors I work with are unhappier than ever," said Aburmishan. "The ones thinking about retirement don't know if the money will be there for them because of declining revenue fears and investment losses over the past few years. They fear that the government and insurers will increasingly tell them how to practice. Younger doctors are afraid that they won't be able to pay off medical school debt as fast as they expected."


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.