Changes are happening in the healthcare system whether we like it or not, from the ACA to the Physician Quality Reporting System, or PQRS. Many doctors are not happy with these changes. Yet, there are few that lead us to affect change. Many doctors are simply too busy and lack time. Others just do not know how to lead. For years, we are trained to just do what others tell us. We have all served as scut monkeys in our early years of residency. However, this mentality is leading to physician burnout. We can no longer just sit back while non-physician executives and politicians dictate healthcare.
How can doctors take back the lead?
1. Attend local meetings at the hospital. Speak up at hospital committees and demand change. Most of us just accept our hospital’s by-laws without even reading them. The vast majority of us oppose MOC, yet if our hospitals are requiring it for us to maintain our privileges, it will never go away.
2. Become active with local medical associations. Many doctors feel the larger ones, such as the AMA, have sold us out to politicians and do not truly represent the physician members. We have more of a chance to make change on a smaller, local lever first. Speak with the representatives and let them know what physicians need and want.
3. Doctors are increasingly frustrated by 3rd party payment hassles. Many sign the participating physician contracts without reading them or knowing what is written in them. This makes it harder for others to negotiate a more reasonable arrangement. Doctors need to stop doing this. We need to refuse to sign contracts we do not read and ones we disagree with. Unless we start doing this, we are forever at the mercies of these insurance companies.
4. Connect with other doctors in your community. We are often isolated, caring for our patients, unaware that many other doctors feel the same stresses we do. We need to come together and determine our true issues and goals.
5. Join the voices on social media. There are several doctors who are speaking out. We need to support them and add our voices. No one, outside of physicians, truly understands the degree of our discontent.
6. Join an online community of physicians. Sermo is the best one for unifying doctors’ voices and getting our opinions out because it is anonymous. Doctors can speak up without fear of repercussions from employers or others who could take such actions. According to Christian Rubio, Community Director of Sermo: “ We are about passion—the passion of doctors for their calling, and the passion with which they engage each other, which, if not done anonymously, could land a well-intentioned, professionally sound physician in hot water with their employers, state boards or associations, and colleagues. It also provides the protection that is found nowhere else for doctors to speak honestly and freely.”
We need to find a way to get our common voice and to come together and find a way to leverage that voice.
There is a true lack of physician leaders in medicine these days—and there has never been a time when we need physician leaders more. Many of us feel that we have lost control of our profession and are increasingly being forced to follow others’ protocols. We are the only ones who know what exactly happens in the exam rooms. We are the best ones who know what our patients need. It is no longer acceptable to watch others change the healthcare system at the detriment of ourselves and our patients. It is time for more leaders to step up and time for all of us to support them.
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.