The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a medical doctor as (n.) a person skilled or specializing in the healing arts; especially: one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice.
By now, we know the work of a doctor far exceeds this definition. In his speech, “Do The Next Right Thing,” Jims Sams, MD, CEO, Privia Medical Group — Georgia, and Physician Executive — Privia Medical Group, Tennessee, stated that, beyond their license, physicians are leaders. “We serve our patients and our communities. … By virtue of being physicians, we are also seen as leaders by our patients and our communities.”
National Doctors’ Day, observed annually on March 30, is a day dedicated to celebrating healthcare professionals for their commitment and contribution to securing good health for their patients and society. Supporting doctors, their patients, and their practices is integral to the health of our population.
As part of this celebration, we surveyed doctors to hear firsthand what their profession means to them. Their diverse responses touched on the important themes that tie together National Doctors’ Day: trust, family, responsibility, and care.
Supporting Physicians and Their Patients
Physicians and providers help patients lead longer, healthier lives. Epidemiological studies show that people in areas with greater numbers of physicians have, on average, a greater life expectancy and reduced cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory mortality. This may not be surprising to primary care providers (PCPs) because patients who see a physician regularly are more likely to receive high-quality care. In fact, studies have shown that 78 percent of patients with a PCP report receiving high-value care as opposed to 67 percent of those patients who don’t have a PCP.
Doctors across all specialties help patients by counseling them on healthy habits. Studies show that patients are 35 to 55 percent more likely to quit smoking and make changes to their diet and exercise regimes when their doctors counsel them to do so.
Promoting provider well-being and fighting burnout are therefore critical to helping patients remain healthy. Elsevier estimates that one in three clinicians will consider leaving their role by 2024 due to fatigue and occupational burnout. To ease the burdens of dealing with the overwhelming volumes of data physicians face each day, healthcare technology should aim to nurture the patient-provider relationship. An ongoing, systematic process of involving doctors in the development process is an important step to accomplishing this goal.
Facilitating Physician Leadership
The COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for physicians. For a time, the standard doctor’s appointment all but disappeared, suddenly replaced by virtual visits, masks, and non-pharmaceutical guidelines. It has been a dark time, and we need the leadership of healthcare professionals going forward.
The politicization of the pandemic eroded public trust in the healthcare system, and patients are losing confidence in their ability to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. Physician leadership and collaboration in our communities are critical as we move to the next phase of our “new normal” and work to reestablish patient trust in the U.S. healthcare system.
In every aspect of their lives, doctors answer a call of duty far beyond providing medical care. Physicians serve as critical resources for those who need healthcare and advocates for their patients and fellow doctors. Their tireless support, dedication, and care for others are commendable. We celebrate you today and every day and hope for a brighter future.