Survey Reveals Wide Frustration
Among Black Doctors
By Amanda Gardner
Most black doctors are unhappy with their chosen careers.
A combination of limited access to health insurance for their patients,
the cost of medical malpractice insurance, and slow reimbursement
rates headed the list of concerns unearthed by a new survey.
"When I got the preliminary findings, I said, no, this can't
be right," said principal investigator Dr. Sharon Allison-Ottey.
"This is a huge problem, a big red flag for the health of this
The survey, which was conducted by the National Medical Association
with support from Pfizer Inc., is called the first national survey
of black physicians' perceptions and attitudes about the medical profession.
The National Medical Association was founded in 1895 and represents
the interests of more than 25,000 black physicians.
The findings were announced recently at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C., and appear in the April issue of the Journal of
the National Medical Association.
As the survey noted, black physicians make up 3 percent to 5 percent
of all doctors in the United States, yet their patient base is 67
One of the more troubling findings was that 76 percent of the 479
physicians surveyed said they had retired within the past year or
expected to retire soon.
"Where do these patients go? Who do they get their health care
from?" Allison-Ottey asked. "The Institute of Medicine recommended
that we increase diversity in the physician workforce. This can potentially
create a huge vacuum."
Nearly a quarter of the doctors indicated "the loss of joy in
medicine as a primary or major reason" for making the decision
Health insurance was also high on the list of complaints. The overwhelming
majority of respondents (90 percent) said inequities in patient access
to health care was "extremely important." Tort reform came
a close second with 88 percent of the votes, followed by reimbursement
issues (83 percent).
Almost three-quarters of the doctors (73 percent) said they weren't
satisfied with their medical liability coverage, and 18 percent said
that getting this insurance was "the biggest problem I've faced
this year." Almost 62 percent said their liability insurance
rates "went up significantly" or "went up somewhat"
in the last three years. Many also indicated problems paying for the
Reimbursement issues also surfaced repeatedly in the survey responses.
More than half of the physicians said they had "personally experienced
a problem or annoyance" in getting reimbursed by insurers. Half
or almost half were "not at all satisfied" with changes
in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
Paperwork and decreasing time allotments for each patient were also
cited as reasons for dissatisfaction.
Almost half the doctors said they were dissatisfied with how they
were being treated by managed care organizations.
At the same time, physicians expressed concern and caring for their
patients and almost 40 percent said they had "passion" for
their chosen field.
"Part of it is from frustrated physicians, stressed-out physicians,
underpaid physicians, the physician with more obstacles each and every
day. But irrespective of all of that, they are still trying to put
on their white coat and see their patients," Allison-Ottey said.