Lack of autonomy and respect threatens 'doctorness,' physicians say

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published April 7, 2016

Key Takeaways

Doctors say that “doctorness”—the traditional way that physicians practice medicine—is threatened, a new study reported. These threats include the increasing complexity of the health care landscape, combined with today’s technology-enabled consumer, according to the “Truth About Doctors” study conducted by marketing services firm McCann, in New York, NY.

The study found that the pressures of today’s world have not only stolen time and autonomy from doctors, but have simultaneously demanded they do more on someone else’s agenda.

“The autonomous, entrepreneurial role the doctor has played in the past has changed dramatically. In the last five years, doctors have gone from being the lynchpin in the health care system to a devalued cog in a larger wheel,” said co-author of the study Hilary Gentile, Chief Strategy Officer, McCann Health North America.

The research involved interviews with 450 doctors across the United States—30% were primary care physicians and 70% were specialists; 45% were female and 55% were male.

“Asked which emotion they experienced the most in their life as a doctor, 51% of doctors selected ‘frustration’, putting it in the top spot followed by ‘anxiety’ (39%),” Ms. Gentile said.

Study co-author Laura Simpson, Global Director of McCann Truth Central, added, “Modern-day doctors have become trapped in a paradoxical standard where they’re expected to forge a warm relationship with patients, yet operate with the cold precision of a machine. In our real-time, know-it-all culture, their authority and respect are eroding right under their feet.”

In addition to the physician interviews, the report updated McCann’s “Truth About Wellness” study, which surveyed 1,900 US consumers. This research revealed that nearly one-third (32%) of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 think they could be doctors with little or no training.

“People think that because they can go on WebMD, they understand what we understand,” said one physician quoted in the report. “We have studied and seen so much, but people just don't value or respect that anymore.”

“Of doctors who said that, on average, technology such as WebMD and wearable devices are bad for patients, the number one risk they cited of this technology is that patients misdiagnose themselves (74%),” Ms. Simpson said. “Fifty-seven percent also said that patients don’t take the doctor’s advice because they think they know better.”

She added, “Advancing technology and the evolving health care system will redefine ‘doctorness’ in the next decade.”

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