Your voice: Why medical leaders must pay attention to physician frustration, dissatisfaction

September 27, 2019
Volume 96, Issue 19

Readers react to recent stories.

Simon G. Talbot, MD, and Wendy Dean, MD, in “Beyond Burnout: Moral injury is the real problem” (August 25, 2019 issue) are to be congratulated by all physicians for their courageous statements on physician burnout.

Every paragraph of their article is truthful and speaks to the dissatisfaction, the demoralization, the anxiety and the frustration that most doctors feel in our over-regulated and exploited profession.

As they said, we doctors have “…taken on the job of data entry clerks, insurance go-betweens…coders/billers..[ that] …we are pulled in too many directions…” 

Their comments that we are not taught or encouraged or empowered to set boundaries must be read by our medical leaders in our state and county medical societies; and in our specialty societies and the American Medical Association.

Their most telling comment was that physicians can free themselves from the exploitive constraints that sicken them like a malignant virus  by saying ‘no’ to the unfair demands asked of us.

Here is my personal example of frustration and dissatisfaction.  I know that other physicians have experienced the same:

I recently was informed by Medicare that I must re-validate my enrollment with PECOS (Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System). I spent over 6 hours navigating the labyrinth of prompts and finally (so I thought) completed this needlessly complicated task.

A few days later I received an email stating that my submission was rejected because it was ‘unsolicited’, meaning I think not needed. I followed all the prompts to clarify the issue but after several hours of frustration I gave up and sent Medicare a letter (at the cost of $25) explaining the problem and my lack of success with their user-unfriendly electronic system. No answer yet.

I even contacted my state medical society and was told that other doctors had the same problem; and that the society had someone who could walk me through the submission form.

That my medical society could walk me or any colleague through the submission process is good, but I have been practicing primary care for 44 years and in good standing with Medicare; and that I or any colleague needs help to fill a Medicare revalidation form is nonsensical.

I replied that the real problem here is physicians’ fears of not bringing this to Medicare’s attention-and to our lawmakers and representatives. Not doing it just prolongs the problem and enforces Medicare’s impression that physicians are a pliable, easily manipulated group.

The time is way overdue for physicians to say “no” and not to hold back any harsh words against those who for one reason or another are the cause of our dissatisfaction and demoralization. The problems with the Medicare re-validation form is a good place to start.

Edward Volpintesta, MD
Bethel, Conn.

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