Trends In Doctor Income and Hours Worked Are Frightening!

I suppose you're wondering what doctor's income has done over the last ten years.  Today I read a report that inflation adjusted doctors' income has declined by 25% between 1996 and 2006.  That means your doctor earns 25% less today than they did just a decade ago.  Some people feel doctors make too much money.  If you went to college and joined a company that said up front  you would be paid 25% less in a decade than you were paid on the day you were hired, would you join them?  I'm sure many people would find that thought ridiculous.  But that is the current reality of physician medical specialties.

I also learned from the Journal of the American Medical Association that the average physician is reducing their work hours per week.  From 1996 to 2008, the average physician cut their hours from 55 hours a week to 51 hours per week.  That is the equivalent of losing 36,000 doctors in a decade.  

Why are physicians working fewer hours?  The conclusion was reduced pay.  Physicians just don't seem inclined to spend long hours in the office and hospitals to sacrifice their family life for the life of their patients when the the economic reward of doing so just isn't there.    I've talked with many physicians about the declining payment for their efforts.  They all tell me exactly the same thing.  They are going to work less and limit their hours as payment reductions come down the pipeline.  The evidence is clear.  Doctors are not martyrs.  When they  sacrifice their lives for their patients, their families suffer. If you pay them less,  they won't put up with that lifestyle anymore.

If you think the doctor shortage is rough now, wait until it takes 3 months to get into the cardiologists office or two weeks for the pulmonologist to call you about your lung biopsy result.  You get what you pay for.  Wait until all physicians are working 40 hours a week, taking no hospital call and no weekend call.  You will get a nation of patients being cared for by nurse practitioners wondering where all their back up went.   We see it already in primary care.  That is the barometer of what is coming. 

On the other hand, hospitalists have left the constraints of the Medicare National Bank and our field is the fastest growing medical specialty in the history of medicine.    The subsidized model of hospitalist medicine the the best WIN-WIN alliance ever. You'd have to be a blind squirrel looking for acorns not to see the writing on the wall.  .   

Someday I'm going to be forced to take a   weekend class on heart catheterizations and bronchoscopies and I really will have to tell a patient that this is only my second time doing this.  All the other doctors are at home playing with their kids on a bright sunny day because none of them find coming in to work to be much worth the effort anymore.

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