Keep up with the latest news, advice and industry insights.

3 Biggest Challenges Physicians Face


Physicians play a huge role in healthcare, but many are feeling disempowered in their work. Between balancing patient satisfaction, insurance claims and the increasing bureaucracy of medical facilities, physicians feel like they’re floundering amid the forces at large. For this reason, recent years have seen a decline in physician job satisfaction, with the majority (62.8 percent) feeling pessimistic about the future of medicine.


This phenomenon is hurting healthcare—from the multimillion-dollar cost of turnover to the increase in medical errors that endanger patients, not to mention the exacerbation of an already severe physician shortage. Whatever pressures these providers face ripple throughout the industry.


Three variables in particular pose the greatest challenges to physicians and negatively impact the healthcare industry. Here’s a list of the three and, even better, potential solutions to alleviate these problems.


Patient Noncompliance


Patient noncompliance is a significant hurdle in physicians’ ability to provide quality care. In fact, one study reported that a staggering 75 percent of patients do not consistently take their prescribed medications as directed. This trend both endangers the patient and could cost the provider his or her career.


Patient negligence isn’t the only problem though. Some patients simply don’t trust their provider’s expertise. In one study, 95 percent of nurse practitioners reported that patients tend to self-diagnose before seeing a professional, which can complicate patients’ receptiveness to care.


Of course, the internet provides a wealth of information, but some patients may try to empower themselves with the wrong information. The discord creates a divide that can lead to a lack of respect on behalf of the patient and, for the doctor, a lack of empathy.


It’s understandable for the physician to get frustrated—all those years of schooling and training to master your profession just to feel like you have to compete with some misguided wellness blogger for your patient’s trust. The last thing the physician should do, however, is discourage the patient from conducting their own research. Instead, empower them with the right resources. Refer them to websites, blogs, even social media accounts that they can turn to for credible information. The more they understand their condition and/or treatment, the more they’ll trust their provider’s expertise.


Burdensome Clerical Work


Building patients’ trust requires providers to spend more time with them, which is increasingly difficult to do with the loads of paperwork. Doctors spend over two thirds of their working hours on paperwork and EHR entries, leaving very little time for actual patient care. In fact, some studies estimate that physicians get to spend as little as 12 percent of their day with patients.


These are fairly new developments. Before, physicians had much better relationships with patients because they spent less time doing clerical tasks and had more relaxed restrictions on duty hours. It’s unfortunate for patients and providers alike.


With such a severe time crunch, patients don’t receive as good of care, and physicians can’t devote as much time as they’d like to their patients. Most doctors agree that patient relationships are the most satisfying part of the job, but 86 percent report that their time with patients is limited. Aside from the paperwork being tedious, doctors hate it most because of the time it takes away from the most important aspect of their work.


What’s worse, regulations make it hard for physicians to get help in these mindless clerical duties. Even with the use of scribes, doctors must give the direct orders for and review entries. However, innovations in telehealth are addressing this issue with better ways to record patient data and perform diagnostics. These tools will reduce the time devoted to EHRs and paperwork, so physicians can get back to what matters most.


Finding Balance


Though regulations now limit the number of hours doctors are allowed to work, many still feel spread thin. Of course, practicing medicine will never not challenge providers. The burden of quality care is just as important as it is stressful, but when almost nine in ten doctors report feelings of burnout, there’s a serious problem.


Most facilities still run on a fee-for-service model that forces physicians to cram as many patients as possible in a day, so it’s no wonder why many feel overworked. The prevalence of that model is likely to change in the years to come, as more facilities and insurance companies are opting for a value-based care system. Physicians shouldn’t wait until that happens though. They need make personal changes now for the sake of their careers.  


Just as with other professionals, physicians need to maintain a good work-life balance. Granted, this is no easy feat with such a demanding line of work. The key is effectively allocate time. There are several things physicians can do to make time for loved ones or, if what they really need is quality “me time,” for themselves. People schedule date nights with their spouses, make weekly bucket lists, or create a homecoming ritual.


If you’re a physician struggling with balance, try one of these ideas or develop your own. Whatever your style, there’s a strategy out there for you. If that isn’t enough, maybe it’s time to make a change in your career.


There are plenty of options in the medical field, but one that’s especially viable is doing locum tenens assignments. More physicians than ever are deciding to go locum because it offers flexible hours, convenience, autonomy and so much more. If you want to learn more about locum tenens opportunities, our team of experts is happy to accommodate you. When it comes to finding balance, do whatever works for you. What many physicians forget is that they can’t properly take care of patients, if they don’t take care of themselves first.


It’s so easy for physicians to get bogged down with these challenges and lose sight of what their profession is really about. Hope is far from lost, however. There are viable solutions and even individual actions that can help doctors make the most of their careers. Otherwise, their struggle will continue to hurt the whole healthcare system. Whether they know it or not, every doctor makes a difference.