Physician Salaries Are Not What’s Wrong With the Healthcare System

America’s healthcare system is dysfunctional, and consumers pay t much for the care that has become more commoditized than it is personalized. At the same time, general practitioners and specialists are making more in this country than they are almost anywhere else in the world, newly published research has found.

This has caused critics of the healthcare system to say physicians in America are overpaid.

Doctors should be paid well, as their schooling takes twice as long as other white-collar professions, and the average med school graduate is carrying more than $160,000 in student loans that must be paid back. The average practicing physician puts in long hours every day delivering care, only to be faced with additional hours of administrative and regulatory paperwork. Physicians are seldom really off the clock.

The problem is not that doctors make too much, it’s that patients are currently getting too little in return.

A recent Time magazine article delved into the complex and many reasons why Americans are paying too much for their healthcare, and the story has prompted many to say doctors are overpaid. In online discussions, doctors have fired back, saying they are not able to repay medical-school bills until they reach their 40s or even 50s, they are under constant pressure to see more patients and those hospital CEOs are the ones with salaries disproportionate to the work they do.

It is not physician salaries that have driven up healthcare costs, many argue, but a commoditized system of healthcare that is designed around insurance companies more than it is around physicians or patients.

Physicians do stressful work that often has life-or-death consequences. On top of that draining work, they are making a difficult transition to electronic health record system and spending additional hours on regulatory, compliance, certification and other administrative tasks that should probably be handled by front-line staff instead. Not only do many doctors practice at the top of their license every day, but many must also combine that work with hours of basic data entry.

Physicians in the managed care system are far more likely to have help with the regulatory and administrative work than those in independent practice, most of whom face those mountains of paperwork alone.

If we are to solve the worsening problem of physician burnout in America, we need to think in terms of giving doctors new tools to manage their difficult jobs and growing workloads, not criticize them for making high salaries.

Independent physicians are the most in need of tools to upgrade their system of practice management. What they don’t need is another SaaS-based product that is purported to help them cut costs and boost efficiency. They need what physicians in the managed care system have, human expertise that complements the sophisticated software.

If we could free physicians from some of their administrative and regulatory burdens, they will be freed up to see more patients and administer higher quality care.

Empowering doctor is a solution that will actually improve our healthcare system. Criticizing the salaries they work so hard to earn is not a solution.

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