Ted Teknos, MD, a professor of otolaryngology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, agreed that otolaryngologists tend to be a happier group than other physicians, based on the nature of the job. “I think otolaryngologists have a high level of personal accomplishment,” he said. Dr. Teknos, who co-authored a 2010 study on burnout among microvascular and free-flap head and neck surgeons in the United States (Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;136(10):950-956), added, “We’re doing some very minor interventions at a relatively low cost in terms of stress to the physician, such as giving someone a hearing aid or even cleaning wax out of their ears, and it makes a huge difference to the patient. It’s pure speculation, but so much of what we do is related to the senses, so our interventions really improve the quality of life in our patients in a visible way.”
Explore This IssueNovember 2012
The Changing Health Care Landscape
Physicians now need to juggle more administrative and bureaucratic tasks than they have at any other time. Health insurers are putting more responsibility on doctors to ensure that proper paperwork and documentation are in place prior to approving and paying for patients’ medical visits and procedures, and doctors need to keep abreast of changing billing and coding requirements, as well as new Medicare and Medicaid requirements. Physicians who work in private practice must earn a living while also potentially hiring staff to ensure that things run smoothly. It’s a far cry from the days when a doctor made house calls and health insurance companies didn’t exist. And, with uncertainty about how national health care reform may play out in years to come, it’s no surprise that morale among all physicians can be affected.
“I think all physicians are facing those issues and, in my opinion, that is why we are seeing many physicians becoming ‘employed physicians’ working for systems, physician groups or hospitals,” said Robert Ossoff, DMD, MD, CHC, the assistant vice chancellor for compliance and corporate integrity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and the co-author of several studies on burnout in otolaryngology residents, academic chairs and faculty.
“Morale for all physicians is challenged these days, and otolaryngologists are no exception,” said Dr. Wei. “It’s near impossible to keep up with constant changes in coding and billing requirements and, in fact, there are a few [otolaryngology] procedures that do not even have updated surgical billing codes. The increasing administrative burden and compliance related to electronic medical records continues to challenge our work flow, efficiency, energy, time and availability to actually provide care.”