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Physicians Resolve to Talk Less, Hire More, and Study Up in 2017

For many, the New Year is a time of self-reflection and self improvement. With so much vagueness and uncertainty in the air regarding the potential changes to healthcare access and legislation, we have asked our physicians to speak very specifically to their goals and plans for the upcoming year as they relate to their own health. On January 8, 2017, our microsurvey tool reached 103 physicians from around the world–with 70% US-based and 30% international–in order to identify their concrete personal and professional aspirations for the year ahead.

InCrowd’s recent physician burnout study indicated that 57% of physicians have personally experienced the depression, frustration and exhaustion that comes with burnout, while another 37% have witnessed the symptoms in their colleagues. Given the pervasiveness of the issue, it was unsurprising that in our New Year’s Health survey only 16% of physicians reported having achieved an excellent work-life balance.

This lack of balance became more obvious when physicians discussed their sleep, exercise and nutrition habits, areas where many physicians do not meet the American Heart Association Healthy Lifestyle Recommendations.

Less than 5% of physicians reported that they “excel” at avoiding stressful situations. Where 79% of physicians take their medications as prescribed, over 20% still do not. This data, though concerning, is not the whole story.

There are aspects of healthy living where our physicians are extremely successful. 72% rated their nutrition as ‘adequate’ or ‘excellent’, with over 65% taking the added step to maintain a daily vitamin regimen. Additionally 68% of physicians do not smoke tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke, despite the stress and pressure of their daily work. It seems that physicians are motivated to make healthy changes when those adjustments do not make additional demands on their time. In this overworked profession, it might be impossible for physicians to reserve precious hours for physical fitness or sleep, but the choice to eat a healthier lunch option is still realistic.

These pressures and time constraints were echoed the physician’s administrative goals for 2017. Of our physicians surveyed, 43% hope to grow their staff and improve their relationships with staff members. EHR and reimbursement paperwork were frequently mentioned as points of stress, with 21% looking to become more efficient in these areas. Several physicians required a “team-based approach” towards success in the coming year. Physicians are overloaded and understand the need to share the work in order to ensure that patients get the best care. However, as we learned in our burnout research, finding and funding such support can be difficult.

Networking and professional education have always been inherent to the physician profession, and this will not change in 2017. Over 80% of physicians reported professional goals–whether seeking education or grants, concentrating internally to improve their work or progressing in their relationships with colleagues. There are so many opportunities for professional growth in the healthcare space, and physicians continue to enthusiastically pursue them.

Physicians responded particularly thoughtfully when asked about their goals regarding patient interactions. 48% of physicians stated that they were dedicated to enhance their patients’ healthcare experiences in 2017. Many cited their EHR skills and use as an obvious area of improvement, but they also mentioned upgrading the office environment and making more of an effort to see patients on time. Regarding communication with patients, 35% of physicians highlighted a desire to diversify and improve their current techniques. Technology was a commonly-held strategy for making strides in the doctor-patient relationship. Several physicians reported looking into creating web-based educational materials or even making themselves more available to their patients via webchat. For a third of these physicians, the resolution was very simple: listen more. Physicians expressed intentions to understand their patient’s needs beyond the limits of their specialties and to remain increasingly focused throughout patient assessments.

It is impossible to definitively predict how larger healthcare regulations and access will change in 2017, but with physicians aiming to delegate frustrating paperwork, develop the latest medical skills, and more effectively communicate with patients, there is a lot to be optimistic about in the coming year.

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