Paperwork, Red Tape, and Pay Cuts are Driving Doctors out of the Medical Field

Paperwork, Red Tape, and Pay Cuts are Driving Doctors out of the Medical Field
Science & Medicine

An increasing number of doctors are fed up with their careers and looking to take their medical expertise elsewhere. The misery is becoming so widespread that physicians have created a place to come together to talk shop and look for other work: the Drop Out Club.

The online networking platform was the brainchild of 6 former med school classmates who all left the medical field to pursue new careers. One of those former med school students was Rael Mazansky, who established the site to allow the group to stay in touch.

Today, the Drop Out Club has more than 23,000 members in 2012 countries, consisting of everything from doctors to med school students who have already figured out that the doctor thing probably isn’t for them. [1]

The Johnny-come-latelies see what the seasoned pros have had to deal with over the years – even more so in recent years – and have already talked themselves out of the stress and into another line of work.

Doctors who go into the field out of a love of people or science spend less and less time pursuing those passions these days, as paperwork and administrative tasks gobble up more and more of their time. Reimbursements are dwindling, thanks in part to Obamacare, and malpractice lawsuits are always a concern.

“The environment has become very stressful, especially in obstetrics,” Karine Kleinhaus told CNN. Kleinhaus had been a practicing OB/GYN who taught at NYU’s School of Medicine. With the help of the Drop Out Club, she moved on to a job as an account executive with a biotech-focused communications and marketing firm. “It’s not the medicine part of it but things like shrinking reimbursements and legal concerns on top of the long hours.”

Kleinhaus now works as a divisional vice president with Pluristem Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company.

“I love science. My transition into biotech allows me to continue to use what I learned in medical school,” she said.

On January 1 of this year, doctors were slammed with pay cuts after Medicaid returned to its old reimbursement rates, and a 2-year pay bump under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that increased reimbursement 40% expired. Under the ACA, any primary care physician who treated Medicaid patients was reimbursed to the generally higher level of the Medicare health insurance program for elderly patients for a myriad of primary care services, but that only applied in 2013 and 2014. [2]

But even before reimbursement rates fell, 9 out of 10 doctors said they discouraged others from joining the profession, according to a 2014 article by The Daily Beast. The story noted that, at least at the time, just processing insurance forms costs $58 for every patient visit. This means that doctors have to increase their patient load, and that translates into less time spent face-to-face with patients. The ACA only made this worse. [3]

Additionally, with Medicare claims based on patient satisfaction, doctors are remiss to turn down demands for unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatments and medications, such as narcotics.

“There’s growing dissatisfaction among physicians,” Mazansky said, echoing Kleinhaus’ concern about falling reimbursements and administrative requirements.

And then there’s the insurance. According to the Houston Chronicle, doctors spend anywhere from $20,000 annually in low-cost states to $200,000 annually in high-cost states to protect themselves. [4]

For many doctors and would-be physicians, the paperwork and legalize and the inability to spend enough time with patients simply stops them from even trying.

“I realized in the later years of medical school that medicine would not be the career I wanted,” Mazansky said. “I loved the science, but I knew that the actual practice of it wouldn’t make me happy.”


[1] CNN Money

[2] Forbes

[3] The Daily Beast

[4] Houston Chronicle