Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Physicians Foundation, Book Review

In Their Own Words; 12,000 Physicians Reveal Thier Thoughts on Medical Practice in Anerica, (Morgan James, 2010)

Occasionally a book appears guaranteed to rivet the attention of doctors, patients, policy makers, and Americans as a whole. In Their Own Words is such a book.

This is a highly authoritative, deeply personal, and fully documented account of the state of primary care doctors in America. The book is of fundamental importance as we debate health reform. The primary care physician shortage makes it unlikely reform will be able to provide timely access to the 31 million newly insured Americans slated to enter the health system, or to the 78 million baby boomers scheduled to start becoming Medicare recipients in 2011.

Authoritative Authors

The book‘s three authors have dealt with the problems, turmoil, frustrations of primary care physicians throughout their careers.

• As Vice President of Communications for Merritt Hawkins & Associates, the largest physician search and consulting firm in the United States and an AMN Healthcare company, Phillip Miller has 20 years of corporate communications and public relations experience. Miller has authored numerous articles on health care staffing and is co-author of four books - Will the Last Physician in America Please Turn Off the Lights? A Look at America’s Looming Physician Shortage; Merritt Hawkins & Associates’ Guide to Physician Recruiting, and Have Stethoscope, Will Travel: Staff Care’s Guide to Locum Tenens.

• As Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Medical Association , comprised of more than 43,000 physicians and medical students. Dr. Louis Goodman is a 21-year veteran of the TMA staff . Before that he spent eleven years with the American Medical Association. Under his leadership, the TMA was recognized as “America’s Best Medical Society” by Medical Economics magazine. Goodman now serves as President of The Physicians Foundation, which represents an estimated 650,000 physicians in state and local medical societies.

• As Executive Director of The Physicians’ Foundation, Timothy Norbeck brings over 40 years of experience in organized medicine to the table. From 1977 to 2006 he served as Executive Director of the Connecticut State Medical Society. In 1993, the Connecticut State Medical Society awarded Mr. Norbeck an Honorary M.D. in recognition of his significant contributions to the medical profession and for his diligent advocacy on behalf of physicians and patients. Mr. Norbeck has served in a variety of other leadership positions, culminating in the Presidency of the American Association of Medical Society Executives.

Together, the three authors have nearly 100 years of first-hand, on-the-ground experience dealing with primary care doctors - their problems and frustrations, their strengths and weaknesses, and their central role as the foundation of the American health system.

My Preface

In the preface to the book, which I wrote, I have this to say,

“If you have any interest in what doctors think or how they feel about the practice of medicine, this is a book you should not put down until you have read it from cover to cover.

Drawing on one of the largest surveys of physicians ever undertaken in America, PHYSICIANS: IN THEIR OWN WORDS gives patients, policy makers and others a bird’s eye view into the hearts and souls of today’s medical men and women.

The book asks readers to conduct an experiment – to switch places with the physician examining you and to imagine what it is like to be a doctor for a day.

It invites readers to consider why what doctors think about their profession matters to the patient’s own health.

It raises a vital question in this era of healthcare reform debate – will there be enough doctors to go around and will doctors be given the latitude to actually treat the patients they see?

Most important, it lets readers sift through hundreds of comments written by physicians themselves who reveal exactly what they think about the way medicine is practiced in America today .

Part wake up call, part fact finding mission, and part remedy plan, PHYSICIANS: IN THEIR OWN WORDS makes a powerful statement about medicine today and is vital reading to anyone who has ever been a patient or who is likely to be one – and that means all of us.”

Contents of Book

The 143 page book has six chapters.

Doctor for a Day

Two, A Matter of Access

Three, Troubling Questions

The Physician Perspective, Medical Practice in 2008

Five, In Their Own Words

Who Will Save Primary Care?

Examples Given and Lessons Learned

Basically, the book gives examples and shares lessons learned from a massive unprecedented survey conducted by The Physicians’ Foundation of 300,000 primary care physicians – the largest of its kind ever attempted. The book categorizes results of that survey in a series of pithy, fact-filled tables.

Meat of Book

The meat of the book lies in the nearly 90 pages containing 250 quotations of personal written comments of 12,000 primary care physicians who were moved to share their angst with the system in response to the survey.

Comments are organized into four sections: The Breaking Point, What about Access?, Electronic Medical Records, and Treatment Plans. The authors highlight the most striking comments in bold print. This makes it easy to grasp the depth and breadth of primary care physicians’ concerns.


The book concludes with suggestions for addressing problems of primary care and supply of primary care physicians. These suggestions include rethinking graduate medical education; bridging the income and prestige gap between primary care doctors and specialists; removing the cap on the amount of money the federal government spends on physician training; and letting doctors be doctors by lightening paperwork burdens, freeing doctors to exercise their clinical autonomy, and permitting them to contract directly with patients without third party interference.

Richard L. Reece, MD. Editor-in-Chief, Physician Practice Options, Author, Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform. Blogger, His book is available at,, and


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