MediMedia Research

Young Physicians: A Fresh Gust in the Winds of Change


Peter Wehrwein
Editor

They may still wear white coats and use stethoscopes. But these younger doctors—they’re different.

With their tech savvy and willingness to work in groups, they could shake up the status quo of American health care, although they are perceived as being weaker on some of the “old school” virtues like a good bedside manner, according to a survey conducted by MediMedia Research.

“The younger cohort of physicians seem to be equipped to practice medicine differently with their tech savvy and their orientation toward group work,” says Earlene Biggs, head of MediMedia Research, a division of MediMedia Managed Markets.

Managed Care is owned by MediMedia Managed Markets, a division of Icon plc.

Biggs and Mark Spickler, a MediMedia research analyst, conducted the survey of Managed Care readers and other health care executives in late January and early February. There were 109 respondents to the 10-minute survey, including 39 physicians and 41 pharmacists. The February issue of Managed Care featured a story about young physicians and changes in the health care system.

Nearly a third (29%) of the respondents rated the disruptive effect of young physicians on the status quo of American health care as high relative to previous major changes to the health care system. Still, a sizable majority (63%) thought the disruptive effect of young doctors on health care was moderate (3–7 on a 10 point scale).

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Managed Care readers and the other respondents were also asked to rate young and experienced doctors on attributes such as face-to-face communication skills, comfort with technology, and friendly bedside manner. The ratings were on a 1 to 7 scale, with 1 being very low and 7 being very high.

Not surprisingly, notes Spickler, the young doctors were rated higher than experienced doctors on use of technology (5.7 vs. 4.1), willingness to connect with patients by nontraditional means (4.9 vs. 3.9), and willingness to work in teams (5.1 vs. 4.7).

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But the MediMedia Research survey also found that experienced doctors were rated higher than their younger counterparts in several areas. As Spickler points out, the biggest spread was in the perception of experienced doctors’ willingness to work long hours: 5.4 for the experienced doctors versus 3.7 for the young doctors. This result fits with the commonly held view that younger physicians reserve more time and attention for obligations and activities outside of work than doctors of previous eras, partly because they have been trained when limits have been placed on the number of hours residents can work.

Other areas in which experienced doctors were rated higher than younger doctors include ability to handle a large number of patients (5.5 vs. 4.2) and clinical judgment (5.9 vs. 4.8), both of which speak of their experience. But they also rated higher in face-to-face communication (5.4 vs. 4.5) and friendly bedside manner (5.3 vs. 4.7).

MediMedia Research analyzed the results further by grouping them into “old school” (level of dedication to medicine, friendly bedside manner, and so on) and new school (tech savvy, willingness to work in teams). Interestingly, the pharmacist respondents saw more old school virtues in younger physicians than did the physician respondents. Their ratings on old school attributes for young physicians came out to 4.8 while physician respondent rating of young physicians on the old school attributes came out 4.2.

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The pharmacists also gave experienced physicians lower grades on new school attributes than did their physician counterparts (4.3 vs. 4.7).

“It appears that pharmacists see a generational differences between younger and older through a different lens than physicians do,” notes Biggs. “This makes sense, because our physician respondents are experienced physicians, by and large, so they are grading themselves to some extent.”