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Doctors, Engineers, & Paperwork

May 2, 2012

Since I’ve been so busy with work stuff lately it’s only appropriate I pop back on here and talk some more about work. Not my job, but doctors. Apparently many doctors would not choose medicine again. In the last year those who would still choose their career has dropped from 64% to 59%.

From the article the suspected reasons are anything from too much paperwork to not enough reimbursement from Medicare patients. I’m sure depending on your political swing you could try to make a compelling argument that it’s the “new healthcare laws” creating the bureaucracy to scare doctors away (or high taxes against those poor, poor doctors) or as stated bluntly in the article that the lack of a single payer healthcare system places the burden of care on patients’ and on doctors’ shoulders entirely.

The part that caught my attention was the complaint that “33% of doctors spend more than 10 hours a week on paperwork and administration.” Only 10 hours? I spend 10 hours in meetings. I probably spend 80% of my working hours on project management type of work rather than actual engineering.

I’m definitely sympathetic to doctors and the changing landscape that they’ve had to deal with. But in general doctors make quite a bit more than engineers, especially the specialists. One could argue that medical school being so many more years out than an engineer that that’s worth it. And it may be poor time management that we put these doctors to work with up to 10 hours a week of paperwork rather than actual caring for patients. But I can’t really feel sorry for them, I just blame the system and wonder why they aren’t trying to change it and fix it rather than letting politicians take the reigns. (Photo from rosmary)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2012 4:54 pm

    Yeah… we’re too stupid to try to change the system… We just like to sit around, do nothing about the problem, and complain about it. LOL.. Did you actually talk to any real doctors about all the things we have done to try to make paperwork easier? Or are you just spouting verbal diarrhea without any understanding of the situation? I also think a big part of the issue is, that unlike engineers (who typically work 40 hours a week including paperwork), the average physician is actually seeing patients around 60-70 hours a week. Then, after running around between hospitals, clinics, etc. all day long, tacking on an extra 10+ hours of paperwork adds its toll on our frustration level. In my field, a light week is 70 hours. Typically I’m at it a lot longer than that.

  2. frautech permalink*
    May 7, 2012 7:28 pm

    Not sure where you read that I called doctors stupid. Also not sure where you are sure engineers only work 40 hours a week. As I said in the post, I agree paperwork is a poor use of a medical doctor’s time. Feel free to check out this article in USA Today which cites a published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-02-26-primary-doctors_N.htm It states doctors have actually cut their hours from 55 a week to 51 a week on average between 1996 and 2008. I didn’t say I wasn’t sympathetic to doctors. But everyone has paperwork. And I’m worried that politicians and special interest groups are leading the changes in the medical industry rather than doctors and healthcare providers. The paperwork is merely a symptom of a bad system. And that system is not limited to the healthcare industry.

  3. ferd permalink
    July 21, 2012 6:17 am

    Frau, you’re right that most time spent on paperwork is underproductive at best; a waste of time and talent at worst. A lot of it could and should be handled by assistants, but management usually won’t hire assistants or secretaries (except for themselves). Yet at the same time, management loves paperwork and doesn’t understand technical workloads so they keep piling on the paperwork.

    I also spend a majority of my time on project management – which is not part of my official job duties but assigned to me anyway. And I doubt that I’m very efficient or effective at it since I must fly by the seat of my pants (management won’t pay for or allow time for formal training). So it’s doubly frustrating to be forced to do work outside my duties and feel queasy about the results, and then get insulted by getting criticized about it too.

    By the way, a large portion of engineers admit that they’re disappointed in engineering as a career and many don’t wish their children to become engineers. It’s mostly due to the (poor) job market and treatment they receive. The only polls I’ve seen that might dispute those claims only poll young working engineers. Once you are dropped out of engineering (usually the excuse is you’re stale) then you don’t hear from those engineers anymore – so they aren’t polled. But just like the doctors, engineers do not have the clout to change their situation. Heaven help us when the Government comes in to help!

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