Physicians Leaving Medical Practice
New York – As an inevitable consequence of the continuing failure of health care providers worldwide, licensed physicians with years of experience are calling it quits. Though there are many areas of discussion as to the reason, it likely comes down to one: HMOs. HMO mandates saturate medical practice with interference. Physicians feel they are no longer in private practice; but, are employees of HMOs.

This interference in daily duties of physicians is easily witnessed by patients who visit their doctor for regular checkups. The scenario is familiar: A patient is being examined by their primary care physician or specialist. The phone rings. The physician answers while the patient awaits the end of a physician/HMO phone call wherein the physician is harrangued into reducing patient care or hospitalization to suit the bottom line of HMOs.

Is the physician the employee of the HMO? Ultimately, yes. No other professional is constantly second-guessed, deluged with HMO paperwork or forced to leave their profession, from the frustration of pleasing an outside entity that oversees every prescription, therapy, surgery and diagnosis.

Physcians cannot practice according to their training and experience without HMO interference, their last resort is to leave the profession, rather than remain in constant battle with inexperienced HMO clerks dictating medical practice.

“Tens of thousands of primary care doctors face the same problems as millions of ordinary citizens: frustrations in dealing with HMOs and government red tape,� said Sandra Johnson, a board member of the Physicians’ Foundation, which released the survey.

“The thing we heard over and over again from the physicians was that they’re unhappy they can’t spend more time with their patients, which is why they went into primary care in the first place,� Johnson said in a news release.

This is true of HMOs selected by employers and those involved as outside contractors of the government through Medicare and on state levels through Medicaid programs for the indigent. In the case of HMOs selected by employers, many physicians are categorized “specialists� though their practices are “general medicine�. A simple procedure like a blood test is forbidden to be administered by a licensed physician during regular office exams, unless cleared by the HMO. Instead, large testing laboratories that do not have a licensed physician regularly on staff allow nurses and testing technicians to perform this procedure on masses of people, warehouse-fashion and in record time, often to the detriment of a patient. The margin for error in such a warehousing format has serious consequences to nurses and testing staff, often under great stress to meet numbers mandanted by HMOs.

The subtle message all physicians is that the HMO, not the licensed physician, decides which course of medicine should be practiced, when it will be performed and under which critieria.

That kind of intrusion is the cause of more physicians leaving medicine. It is also the reason for the deterioration in health care. If physicians must spend more of their time debating medical practice for which they are trained, with HMO staff who rely on an HMO staff physician heavily influenced by the HMO’s bottom line and not the actual needs of the physician and patient, the future of medicine is in serious decline.

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