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Defining Doctor Discontent

From a single family doctor to an entire system of managed care, the way we get medical attention in the U.S. has changed significantly in the past decade.

The changes have left many patients dissatisfied and anxious about the quality of their care. But it has also made doctors very discontented. CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy reports on what doctors are feeling and what it may mean for you.

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, that focuses on doctors' discontent. Editor-in-chief Dr. Jerome Kassirer talks about disgruntled, frustrated doctors and says we had better take note.

Although, to patients, this may seem like a bunch of "whining doctors," it is about quality - the environment in which they are rendering care to patients.

The New England Journal of Medicine says doctors are unhappy because they can't spend enough time with patients. Doctors can't freely send patients to specialists if they need them. And in addition, some doctors (as many as 20 percent) feel that they can't tell patients all the options for their care. They are not giving them adequate information. Those are very serious issues. That's a reason for discontent. Patients and doctors together must solve that problem.

Specifically, the editorial states that the discontent stems from "frustrations in their attempts to deliver ideal care, restrictions on their personal time, financial incentives that strain their professional prinicples, and loss of control over their clinical decisions"

It continues: "Many physicians have sold their practices and joined large multispecialty groups, hospital networks, or physician management companies. Some have simply given up. They have retired early or have filed disability insurance and given up their practices."

Dr. Healy says the bottom line for the U.S. health care system is: "We have to make major changes. It's not broken. It has to be fixed in certain areas. Patients ought to be careful when they choose an HMO. Patients ought to realize [that] they can leave their HMO if they are not happy with it."

Even though people often point out that doctors are highly paid, says Dr. Healy, we have to worry about the patients they are caring for. It's about quality of care, not about money, she adds. "The ethics of medicine is that the patient comes first."

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