Physician frustrations fueled by disruptions to doctor-patient relationships

By Matt Kuhrt

Assessing the current landscape for practicing physicians, American Medical Association President Steven J. Stack, M.D., sees rising levels of frustration with administrative overhead and government regulation, according to an interview in the Chicago Tribune. His prescription for the industry involves removing barriers that keep doctors from focusing on their interactions with patients.

The frustration and burnout that physicians increasingly feel have their roots in the elements that distract and redirect doctors away from direct patient interaction, according to Stack. "There are so many people who have intruded between the patient and the doctor," he said, pointing to government regulation and hospital micromanagement that give doctors marching orders and then measure their success by "metrics that may not even be germane to what [they're] doing."

Part of the answer may involve implementing technological solutions that make information more easily available, rather than continuing to use obsolete systems. Other difficulties noted in the interview include rising costs, as well as insurance industry consolidation, which has decreased access to healthcare.

The fundamental motivation for physicians remains helping people, and there's ample evidence that when doctors build strong, direct relationships with their patients, better health outcomes follow. Stack described the encroachment of the "business side" of medicine as inhibiting that relationship, as insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations and healthcare organizations seek opportunities to maximize profits without a pure enough regard for the human side of medicine.

Singling out pharmaceutical companies in particular, Stack explained the AMA's call for a ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising as way of making it easier for doctors to take the lead in guiding patients to the appropriate choices. The inherently biased nature of advertising, intended to drive demand for expensive drugs among consumers, can make it more difficult for doctors to have an informed discussion with patients regarding the merits of the treatment.

To learn more:
- read the interview in the Chicago Tribune

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