Fascinating piece about how badly the practice of medicine in the US has lost its way.
In the course of our lives, most of us will urgently need care, sometimes when we least expect it. Currently, we must seek it in a system that excels at stripping our medical shepherds of their humanity, leaving them shells of the doctors and people they want to be, and us alone in the sterile rooms they manage. What makes our predicament so puzzling, and what may offer hope, is that nearly all of us want a different outcome. I used to think that change was necessary for the patient’s sake. Now I see that it’s necessary for the doctor’s sake, too.
The US spends almost twice as much of GDP on health care as most comparable nations and yet “the US ranks last among 11 major industrialised nations in efficiency, equity and “healthy lives”, meaning health outcomes attributable to medical care”. It’s an astonishing record, one that suggests preternaturally perverse systemic incentives.
Still, none of that’s news. What was is just how disastrous the system has also been for the well-being of most of its practitioners.
Today’s physicians, he tells us, see themselves not as the “pillars of any community” but as “technicians on an assembly line,” or “pawn[s] in a money-making game for hospital administrators.” According to a 2012 survey, nearly eight out of 10 physicians are “somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of the medical profession.” In 1973, 85 percent of physicians said they had no doubts about their career choice. In 2008, only 6 percent “described their morale as positive,” Jauhar reports. Doctors today are more likely to kill themselves than are members of any other professional group.