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Health Care Reform:

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Doctors' Incomes Up, Orthopedic Surgeons Lead

How Doctors Spend Their Time continued...

On average, 30% of the doctors who answered the survey say they spend 13 to 16 minutes per patient. Another 21% say they spend 17 to 20 minutes per patient. One in four doctors sees more than 100 patients a week. About 1 in 5 sees 25 to 49 patients a week.

Conversations about costs are usually not included in those patient talks, the doctors say. Only 30% say they regularly discuss cost with a patient, preferring to focus on treatment options.

Paperwork eats up the other time: 23% say they spend 5 to 14 hours a week on paperwork. And 17% say paperwork takes them more than 20 hours weekly.

Doctors Look Back

Would doctors pick medicine again as a career? Overall, 51% say they would.

Doctors within some specialties were more likely to, with:

  • 66% of internists opting for medicine again
  • 62% of family doctors

Less likely:

  • 37% of dermatologists and orthopedic surgeons

The finding about dermatologists and orthopedic surgeons may seem surprising, as both are among the higher-paid specialties.

The doctors' responses about whether they would pick medicine again didn't always jibe with another survey question about their satisfaction with their medical practice.  For instance, dermatologists reported the highest satisfaction levels, with 59% saying they were satisfied. Only 44% of orthopedic surgeons were satisfied.

Weighing the Rewards of Medicine

What keeps doctors practicing, despite frustrations and paperwork?  Relationships with patients, getting to the root of symptoms, and making an impact in the world, they say.

More than a third of doctors who responded say finding a diagnosis or answer is most rewarding, and 31% cite their relationships with their patients.

Twelve percent cite as most worthwhile the knowledge that they're making the world a better place by practicing medicine.

Only 2% of doctors who responded say nothing is rewarding about their life in medicine.

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