The Path to Victory by Pat Conrad MD

Well slap my grits if lapping up a big bowl of irony ain’t the best way to start a new year. Medical Economics published their “Top 10 Challenges of 2017”, and challenge #4, “Staying motivated to practice medicine”, is written by the AMA’s Vice President of Professional Satisfaction. Now who would know more than a comfortable AMA insider about daily physician happiness?

Christine Sinsky, MD coauthored a 2015 Mayo study that found: physician burnout had risen 15% since 2011, to 54%. There was also a corresponding decline in reported satisfaction with work-life balance. Dr. Sinsky recognizes that this burnout rate is the result of increasing time spent documenting, EHR’s, and loss of control “to government regulators and third party payers.” And now for the fun part.

Sinsky says, “It’s a cumulative effect of well-intended efforts adding up to a burden of work that no one anticipated.” Well-intended by whom, exactly, the sellouts at the AMA? And why is any credit given for good intentions, when those of us on the receiving end of this garbage absolutely anticipated the results? In what sounds like a parody from the old Placebo Journal, “the AMA has created a series of online tutorials – which Sinsky calls “transformation toolkits”—designed to help practices operate more efficiently and enable physicians to gain more control over their workday. Many of the tutorials focus on ways doctors and practices can save time, such as renewing all of a patient’s medications once a year, or spreading documentation and data entry among members of a care team.” She suggests straight-faced that doctors “reengineer” their days to “create a lot more room in their day for enjoyment.”

And when you aren’t up to your ears in soul-sucking, AMA-backed regulations, EHR’s, and transformational toolkits, you might want to try a little…mindfulness.

That’s what Gail, Gazelle, MD and “executive coach for physicians” recommends as a stress reduction technique: “living in the present moment in a compassionate way, without judgment.”

Hey doc, Ms. Smith is on the phone wanting us to call in her refills so she doesn’t have to get an office charge, the billing manager says we just got penalized by Medicare for not meeting fourth quarter quality goals, our IT dude says the server will be down the rest of the day for the scheduled yearly program upgrade, we just got the bill for that upgrade, and there’s a nice lawyer in the lobby with a document for you. Sorry, that will all have to wait, I’m busy smelling the flowers, or something …

“Worries about the future, ruminations about the past, all these things pull us away from the present”, Gazelle says. Yeah, like worrying about having to keep practicing just to pay the bills, or ruminating on why I wasn’t smart enough to become a wellness guru for other doctors so I wouldn’t have to see these damn patients.

Boiled down, Sinsky, Gazelle, and other happy-happy types sell their cheerleading as a way to be a joyful prisoner. They offer no solutions toward fixing anything, but only docile acceptance. That’s a hell of a start for 2017.

94620cookie-checkThe Path to Victory by Pat Conrad MD