2008 Exclusive Survey-Productivity: Demographics drive productivity decline

Primary care physicians spent fewer hours on professional activities last year than in 2006.

Key Points

"All the primary doctors I know are struggling," says Kenneth T. Hertz, an MGMA consultant in Alexandria, LA. "There's hardly a doc who says, 'I'm working less.'"

One reason for the shorter workweek, observers say, is that there are more women in medicine - especially in family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. Overall, the survey found, female physicians worked 18 percent less than their male counterparts. That's not a reflection of their work ethic or ambition; it's largely because many women work part time while their children are young.

A significant number of doctors in large practices are also putting in long hours, but much of that extra time is spent not on patient care, but in committee work, says Greg Korneluk, a consultant in Boca Raton, FL. "The larger your group gets, you more time you have to spend on communication," he says. "You don't have that when you're a soloist - who are you going to talk to but yourself?"

Midlevels' impact on physicians' work

Along with the decline in the median number of hours worked, the number of patient visits per week fell - dropping from 100 to 94 for primary care physicians as a whole. But there were two exceptions: GPs saw slightly more patients last year than the year before, and FPs saw many more, leaping from an average of 100 patients in 2006 to 112 in 2007.

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