Employer Healthcare Strategies


5 Reasons Why Physicians Are Leaving the Practice (And Where They Want to Go)

Posted by Tatiana Spears on January 21, 2017


Changes in healthcare are taking place at break neck speed. From clinical and technological advances, to financial and regulatory obligations, today’s physician are forced to adapt to transformational changes – fast. In recent years, physicians are navigating through a series of events that leave many feeling uncertain about the future. Such uncertainly is leading to unprecedented levels of stress, bias, and burnout. According to the 2016 Physicians Foundation’s Survey, physicians have had to adapt to several simultaneous changes in recent years, including:

  • Expansion of health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include 20 million people and may soon be repealed and replaced by the Trump administration.
  • Passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT (MACRA), which will totally revamp how physicians are paid by Medicare, further moving payments from “volume” to “value.”
  • Implementation of ICD-10, raising the number of disease classification codes physicians use from 14,000 to 68,000
  • An ongoing physician shortage, projected by the Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to create a deficit of up to 90,400 physicians by 2025.
  • The “corporatization” of healthcare, including over $400 billion in merger activity in 2015 and approximately 100 hospital/health system consolidations.

Physicians are the key drivers of healthcare quality, setting the precedent to access and cost. With an ongoing physician shortage and nearly 50% of providers experiencing burnout, the outlook of healthcare in the United States continues to cause alarm. So what is a provider to do?


Why Providers Are Leaving the Practice

Continuous adaption to changing delivery and payment models is causing a strain among physicians and limiting access to quality care for patients.

Today, 54% of physicians describe their morale as somewhat or very negative. About half of all physicians would not recommend medicine as a career to young people and close to one-third would not choose be physicians if they had their careers to do over. So how did we get here?   

One theory is that the “corporatization” of healthcare, including over $400 billion in merger activity in 2015 and approximately 100 hospital/health system consolidations, is contributing to rising frustrations. Whether working for a hospital, a physician-owned group, an urgent care center, or other facility, physicians today are increasingly likely to be part of corporatized healthcare system. These employed physicians see 19% fewer patients than a practice owner and spend nearly a quarter of their time on non-clinical paperwork. 

Physician burnout is a major concern for the industry and can lead to lower patient satisfaction and care quality; higher medical error rates and malpractice risk; higher physician and staff turnover; and physician drug and alcohol abuse. According to the Medscape Lifestyle Report 2016: Bias and Burnout, some of the major causes of physician burnout include:

  1.  Too many bureaucratic tasks
  2. Spending too many hours at work
  3. Too many patient appointments in a day
  4. Not enough income
  5. Just feeling like a cog in a wheel

Where Physicians Want to Go 

With increasing corporatization and greater emphasis on volume, not value, many physicians are left feeling overworked, ineffective, and demoralized. It’s no wonder why 43% of physicians plan to cut-back on hours, retire, take a non-clinical job, switch to “concierge” medicine, or take other measures to bring back balance. One branch of healthcare offering physicians greater balance is employer-sponsored care.

Chronic diseases and their complications are typically the main health care cost drivers for employers. With an emphasis on wellness, employers are investing in programs and services that focus on one thing: improving health. Leading employer-sponsored clinics offers physicians an opportunity to be the change agent they’ve always wanted to be. Here’s how it works:

Video: The Rise of Employer-Sponsored Primary Care Clinics


With evidence-based medicine at the center of an employer-sponsored healthcare ecosystem, physicians are empowered to provide the value-based care and influence sustainable change for patients and their families.

Preparing for the Future 

As the health care market changes, so are the professional and personal ambitions of physicians. Navigating a dizzying array of advanced technology, new regulations, and shifting patient expectations, providers want work environments that support best practice and work-life balance. Healthcare is in an era of transformation, and employers are beginning to innovate to prepare gifted physicians for the emerging new model of care.

Related Post:  5 Benefits of a Worksite Clinic Career 

An evolving market environment is demanding new competencies: business acumen, data analytic skills, and tech savviness, including enhanced communication and leadership skills. Much is being demanded from providers. The question is: What will they demand in return? Increasing dissatisfaction with work conditions and decreasing number of professionals in the field suggest something has got to give. Perhaps we can learn from emerging value-based models of care and empower providers to get back to why they started.


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Tatiana Spears

About The Author

Tatiana Spears

With an MBA mind for analysis and strategy development, Tatiana loves transforming creative ideas into practical application for innovative companies and professionals. She is also the proud owner of an overworked Nespresso machine.