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If Massachusetts reflects the nation, physicians’ satisfaction with their professional lives has declined substantially in the last 15 years, according to a study sponsored by the Rockville, MD-based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, NJ.
The study compared findings from surveys of Massachusetts primary care physicians in 1986 and 1997 (Journal of General Internal Medicine 2001; 16:451-459). By 1997, fewer than two-thirds of physicians were satisfied with most areas of practice, and fewer than half were content with the time they spent with patients, the amount of leisure time they had, and incentives for providing high-quality care, as compared with physicians in 1986.
However, respondents in both 1986 and 1997 said they were satisfied with the quality of care they were able to provide, says John M. Eisenberg, MD, director of AHRQ. "This important research shows that changes in the way health care is delivered affect those who are dedicated to providing care to their patients," Eisenberg says. "Both the public and private sectors need to work together to help health professionals adapt to the changes in the structure and organization of the American health care system."
The study also examined differences in the experiences of physicians working in different types of medical practices. Nearly half of physicians in practices that contract with multiple insurers reported one or more insurance company denials of patient care in the prior year.
Physicians in these practice arrangements were highly dissatisfied with the procedures required for obtaining health plan authorization for patient care, as opposed to physicians who work exclusively with one health plan. In addition, fewer than half indicated that they would recommend the health plans with which they were associated to family members or friends.