Discontent with practice climate transcends race

African-American physicians are unhappy with medicine for the same reasons other doctors are.

By Damon Adams — Posted May 24, 2004

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The majority of African-American physicians are dissatisfied with medical practice, and they cite high liability insurance costs and low reimbursements as key reasons, according to a new survey.

About three in four of the doctors surveyed said they retired in the last year or expect to retire soon.

The impact on minority patients could be huge: African-American doctors make up 3% to 5% of the physician population, and two-thirds of their patients are minorities.

"Across the board, we saw that physicians expressed frustration. There is potentially a major crisis," said Sharon Allison-Ottey, MD, a Lanham, Md., internist and co-investigator of the survey, published in the April Journal of the National Medical Assn. "If there is an exodus from these practices, who comes in and takes care of these patients?"

The mail survey was the first conducted on African-American physicians' perceptions of the profession by the National Medical Assn., which represents 25,000 African-American physicians. Working with the Gallup Organization, the group polled 479 of its members in July 2003.

One in four respondents said a "loss of joy" in medicine was a primary or major reason for making changes in practicing medicine.

In the survey, 73% of doctors indicated no satisfaction with their liability coverage. About one in five said getting liability insurance was "the biggest problem I've faced this year."

More than 50% of doctors said they had experienced a reimbursement problem. A similar number said they were not satisfied with their treatment by managed care plans. About four in 10 respondents still expressed a passion for their profession.

The study echoes concerns voiced by doctors of other races. A survey released in 2002 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about six in 10 doctors said their enthusiasm for practicing medicine had dropped from five years ago. Three in four doctors said managed care had a negative impact on how they practice medicine, the Kaiser study said.

"More physicians are alike than they are different. I don't think race divides us over these issues," Dr. Allison-Ottey said.

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External links

"The Joy Is Gone -- Results of the NMA/Gallup Survey of African-American Physicians," Journal of the National Medical Assn., April, in pdf (link)

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