4 reasons why physicians will become extinct

Will physicians go extinct? Artificial intelligence, legislation, profit motives in the health care industry, and clever lobbying by non-physician providers may all contribute to our demise. However, I believe the existential threat to our profession stems from the ranks of physicians themselves.

1. Unwillingness to embrace activism

Pathologist and writer Rudolph Virchow once said: “The physician is the natural attorney of the poor.” Like most physicians, my goal is to provide evidence-based and compassionate care to my patients and be their chief advocate. As a hospitalist, I consider it my duty to fight to ensure that whatever is medically necessary gets done for my patients while they are hospitalized. Sometimes I argue against insurance companies, and sometimes with my own hospital administration.

Once the patient is discharged, however, it, unfortunately, has been a different story. I must admit (and I’m a bit ashamed) that I haven’t written to Congress expressing outrage at the dismantling of patient protections. I haven’t organized protests about exorbitant medication prices. I haven’t joined my local medical society to combat the coordinated assault on physician-led care and haven’t walked out on strike protesting the profit-above-patient ethos pervasive in health care today. I have many excuses why I don’t do more: I’m overworked, I have student debt to repay (so I work more), and I have young children. I suspect that the majority of my colleagues may be in the same position — focusing on the patient in front of them but not actively engaged in shaping the health care landscape that will impact all patients. If we continue to stand silently on the sidelines, our patients may not trust that we truly wish to remain their health care champions.

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