Objectives: A usual source of care is associated with better health outcomes. Dissatisfaction among family physicians and general practitioners (FP/GPs) may compromise the accessibility of a usual source of care and the quality of services. We examined the association between FP/GP dissatisfaction and an inability to deliver high-quality care.
Study design: We performed a secondary data analysis of the Community Tracking Study (CTS) Physician Survey (1996-1997).
Population: The study included a nationally representative sample of more than 12,000 nonfederal physicians practicing direct patient care in the United States.
Outcomes measured: We measured associations of career dissatisfaction with physicians&rsquo perceptions of their ability to provide high-quality care as defined by 6 survey items. Multivariate analyses controlled for the effects of personal, professional, and practice characteristics.
Results: Among FP/GPs in 1996-1997, more than 17% were dissatisfied. Age was the most significant personal factor associated with dissatisfaction; 25.1% of those aged 55 to 64 years reported dissatisfaction compared with only 10.1% of those younger than 35 years. Other personal or professional characteristics significantly associated with FP/GP dissatisfaction included osteopathic training, graduation from a foreign medical school, full practice ownership, and an income of less than $100,000. Physicians dissatisfied with their careers were much more likely to report difficulties in caring for patients, strongly disagreeing (vs strongly agreeing, odds ratio [OR] 1.0) that they had enough clinical freedom (OR 7.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.86-12.83); continuous patient relationships (OR 7.11; 95% CI, 4.90-10.33); no financial penalties for clinical decisions (OR 4.44; 95% CI, 3.13-6.31); adequate time with patients (OR 4.42; 95% CI, 2.84-6.87); ability to provide quality care (OR 4.26; 95% CI, 2.88-6.31); and sufficient communication with specialists (OR 3.57; CI, 2.20-5.80).
Conclusions: An inability to care for patients is significantly associated with career dissatisfaction. This relationship has implications for the achievement of policy objectives related to access, having a usual source of care, and quality.