The Key Factors of Physician Satisfaction

The ability to provide high-quality health care is a key factor to determining if physicians are satisfied with their jobs, and obstacles that got in the way are major sources of dissatisfaction.

The ability to provide high-quality health care is a key factor to determining if physicians are satisfied with their jobs, according to a new study.

The RAND Corporation report “Factors Affecting Physician Professional Satisfaction and Their Implications for Patient Care, Health Systems and Health Policy,” in collaboration with the American Medical Association (AMA), determined factors of professional satisfaction among physicians using data gathered at 30 practices in six states.

"Many things affect physician professional satisfaction, but a common theme is that physicians describe feeling stressed and unhappy when they see barriers preventing them from providing quality care," Dr. Mark Friedberg, the study's lead author and a natural scientist at RAND, said in a statement.

When physicians perceive themselves as providing high-quality care, they reported better professional satisfaction. Meanwhile, obstacles to providing this high-quality care were major sources of dissatisfaction.

Among the barriers physicians see are electronic health records. While physicians approve of EHRs in concept, they are time-consuming, cumbersome to use and worsened professional satisfaction for many physicians. However, physicians are looking forward to the future, when current data entry, interface difficulties and information overload problems will be solved.

"Physicians believe in the benefits of electronic health records, and most do not want to go back to paper charts," Friedberg said. "But at the same time, they report that electronic systems are deeply problematic in several ways. Physicians are frustrated by systems that force them to do clerical work or distract them from paying close attention to their patients."

Aside from incentives to adopt EHRs, recent health reforms were not prominent contributors to over all professional satisfaction, according to RAND’s report. While they didn’t feel health reform positively or negatively affected satisfaction, physicians and administrators did express uncertainty over how aspects of health reform would affect satisfaction in the future and practice financial sustainability.

"Overcoming modern medicine's greatest obstacles to first-rate medical care can simultaneously enhance the quality of care and improve professional satisfaction among physicians," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said in a statement.

Another important factor in professional satisfaction was income and few physicians reported dissatisfaction with their current levels of income. Working in practices in which the physician did not have an ownership interest tended to alleviate stress. Income stability also contributed to satisfaction.