Things I Worry About Are….
As doctors, we strive to provide the highest quality care for our patients. In the pursuit of this goal, there are many worries doctors develop in response to the high stakes environment we face every day.
- Malpractice litigation – From the time we graduate medical school and treat our very first patient, we are trained to practice defensive medicine to avoid the threat of a malpractice lawsuit being filed against us. This is a fear that physicians consistently report and leads to a high-pressure environment that takes a toll on our mental health. Though malpractice claims are higher in some specialties than others, every physician is vulnerable to a malpractice suit. This is one of the reasons why we order a multitude of tests and spend so much time charting electronic medical records. Though this ultimately raises the cost of healthcare, it is a necessary step to reduce the risk of a malpractice lawsuit.
- Patient satisfaction ratings – A major worry most doctors have in the modern digital age is patient satisfaction scores. These scores can make or break our image, since a bad rating may deter prospective patients or reflect negatively on our practice or hospital. This worry often drives us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and can contribute to physician burnout.
- Missing a diagnosis – The ICD-10-CM lists over 68,000 possible medical diagnosis codes. Carefully dissecting the patient’s history and current physical health to select the right diagnosis is a very daunting task, especially since the list of potential differentials can be quite extensive. The fear of missing a life-threatening diagnosis is a concern many doctor’s experience today, due to the decreasing amount of time we are able spend with patients.
- Doing harm to a patient – A fundamental ethical standard doctors must live by is the Latin phrase, “primum non nocere”, which means “first, do no harm.” Despite our best efforts, the fear of accidentally making a patient’s condition worse is very real. We worry about believing we are choosing the best treatment option when we actually aren’t, or unintentionally missing a finding that may ultimately harm the patient.
- Insurance issues interfering with quality of care – A prevalent issue most doctors face is dealing with insurance companies. This can affect the patient’s quality of care in many ways, ranging from less time during patient visits to an inability to pay for office visits and necessary treatments. It is natural to worry about how we can best help our patients who are faced with these healthcare obstacles.
As physicians, we are tasked with the great responsibility of being an advocate for our patients. We have people’s lives in our hands, and therefore, our jobs come with certain fears and worries. The key to managing these fears is to realize that we are not alone and to use these fears to find ways to better serve our patients.