The Anonymous Physician: 

 Early Retirement

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The Anonymous Physician column provides physicians with a platform to discuss pressing issues in healthcare. From time to time, we pose a question to a doctor, or a group of doctors, and post their answers anonymously, giving them the freedom to be frank and uninhibited. After all, we believe the best solutions come out of open discussion. This time, we’re taking on the topic of early retirement. 

 

The issue: 

 

A recent survey found that 36% of physicians are considering early retirement. If more physicians choose to retire early, it will exasperate the ongoing physician shortage crisis. This trend has caused many hospital administrators to search for creative ways to keep their physicians from leaving medicine early. 

 

The question:

 

What factors are contributing to an increased interest in early retirement among physicians, and can hospitals do a better job of keeping them?

 

The answer:

 

Physicians consider early retirement only if they are financially able to as a prerequisite. They may choose to leave medicine early mainly if they are unhappy in medicine. In my experience, the leading drivers of unhappiness are the EMR and dealing with onerous pre-authorizations and other third-party payor burdens, things that devalue physicians and their time. The physician may have been only moderately happy in medicine, but the misery of the EMR and insulting administrative requirements are the deciding factor. Hospitals are not able to eliminate these factors, but can mitigate them by providing excellent physician-friendly EMR support and pre-authorization staff to offload that burden from physicians whose time is better spent elsewhere. 

 

In a related line, hospitals should treat even employed and contracted physicians as partners, not employees. 

 

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