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Survey Report: What doctors want most from practice

Article

More free time, more income, and less hassle around the office were the top choices in our latest survey.

 

SURVEY REPORT

What doctors want most from practice

Jump to:
Choose article section...Practice goals for primary care physicians How goals vary with gross income

More free time, more income, and less hassle around the office were the top choices in our latest survey.

By Berkeley Rice
Senior Editor

Most physicians, we assume, are dedicated to providing good patient care. But we wondered what else drives today's doctors. So our 2001 Continuing Survey questionnaire posed the question: "Aside from good patient care, what practice goal would you say motivates you most right now?"

Presented with a list of options, one-third of our primary care respondents picked "more free time," the most popular choice. The next most common goal, picked by more than 27 percent of those responding, was "increased earnings." The third-ranked choice, with 18 percent, was "greater administrative ease of practice."

Back in 1987, the last time we asked about practice goals, greater ease of practice was the top choice, followed by more free time and increased earnings. Another popular option that year was increasing practice size, which garnered 16 percent of the votes.

This year, however, relatively few doctors picked either increasing (8 percent) or reducing (5 percent) the size of their practice, while even fewer cited changing their practice type or becoming more specialized. The 6 percent who marked "other" wrote in such specific goals as better service, compassion, professional development; learning more; dropping HMOs, less call, less hospital work, slowing down, part-time teaching, or retirement.

Ob/gyns, FPs, and pediatricians were most likely to yearn for additional free time and income. Internists, GPs, and pediatricians, however, chose "greater administrative ease" more often than other doctors.

When we compared primary care physicians' goals with their 2000 gross practice income, we found some interesting, if predictable, relationships. For example, "more free time" was most popular among doctors in the higher-earning categories, perhaps because they're putting in longer days and seeing more patients to earn those big bucks.* In contrast, physicians who grossed less than $80,000 were naturally most eager to increase their earnings, but showed much less interest in increasing their free time than their high-earning colleagues.

We also examined doctors' goal preferences according to practice size. According to our data, relatively few doctors in groups of 10 or more showed much desire for greater administrative ease, suggesting they're relatively insulated from managed care hassles. Those in two-doctor partnerships expressed the least interest in increasing their earnings, while those in the biggest groups (25 or more physicians) were most eager to boost their income.

How do your goals compare? Check the accompanying tables to find out.

*See "Are you really working harder now?" Nov. 19, 2001.

This article is It may not be reproduced, quoted, or paraphrased in whole or in part in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Practice goals for primary care physicians

 
Cardiologists
FPs
GPs
Internists
Ob/gyns
Pediatricians
All primary care physicians*
More free time
36%
35%
30%
30%
37%
35%
33%
Increased earnings
28
32
19
23
28
26
27
Greater administrative ease
18
17
19
21
13
20
18
Increased practice size
7
7
6
9
7
11
8
Reduced practice size
3
5
18
6
4
1
5
More specialization
4
1
2
3
3
1
2
Change in practice type
0
<1
0
2
<1
0
1
Other
5
5
6
7
8
6
6

 

How goals vary with gross income*

 
Less than $80,000
$80,000- 139,000
$140,000- 199,000
$200,000- 399,000
$400,000- 599,000
$600,000- 799,000
$800,000 or more
More free time
19%
34%
31%
32%
34%
40%
44%
Increased earnings
32
23
33
28
27
33
17
Greater administrative ease
13
20
16
17
19
11
19
Increased practice size
10
7
9
8
7
9
6
Reduced practice size
12
5
6
5
4
<1
2
More specialization
<1
3
1
1
2
5
<1
Change in practice type
<1
2
1
1
<1
<1
<1
Other
13
5
3
8
6
2
12

 

Doctors in large groups want higher pay

 
Partnerships and groups of
 
Solo
Expense sharers
2 physicians
3 physicians
4-9 physicians
10-24 physicians
25 or more physicians
More free time
29%
26%
43%
27%
36%
43%
40%
Increased earnings
26
33
21
35
33
24
38
Greater administrative ease
17
21
17
22
20
10
6
Increased practice size
10
6
10
7
7
20
4
Reduced practice size
9
4
2
<1
<1
2
0
More specialization
2
<1
2
<1
<1
<1
2
Change in practice type
1
<1
<1
<1
<1
<1
<1
Other
6
9
5
9
4
2
10

 

HMO participation makes a difference

 
Participate with at least one HMO
No HMO participation
More free time
32%
36%
Increased earnings
28
22
Greater administrative ease
20
13
Increased practice size
8
10
Reduced practice size
3
8
More specialization
2
1
Change in practice type
<1
2
Other
6
7

 

A Medical Economics Web Exclusive

How primary care physicians’ goals vary

By years in practice . . .

 
1-5
6-10
11-20
21-30
30 or more
More free time
34%
34%
32%
34%
32%
Increased earnings
33
28
29
26
15
Greater administrative ease
14
19
19
18
19
Increased practice size
9
13
8
6
5
Reduced practice size
1
1
4
5
16
More specialization
4
1
2
1
2
Change in practice type
3
<1
<1
<1
1
Other
2
3
6
8
10

By type of community . . .

 
Inner city
Rural
Suburban
Urban
More free time
24%
37%
31%
35%
Increased earnings
31
21
30
26
Greater administrative ease
21
18
18
17
Increased practice size
8
9
9
7
Reduced practice size
7
6
4
6
More specialization
3
2
1
2
Change in practice type
1
1
<1
1
Other
6
5
7
7

And by region

Practice goals

East
Midwest
South
West
More free time
28%
38%
34%
33%
Increased earnings
27
24
28
27
Greater administrative ease
22
16
17
19
Increased practice size
11
9
7
6
Reduced practice size
4
6
4
6
More specialization
2
2
1
2
Change in practice type
1
<1
1
<1
Other
5
4
8
7

 

Berkeley Rice. Survey Report: What doctors want most from practice. Medical Economics 2001;24.

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