HUNTERSVILLE – Lake Norman area health care executives say it should be no surprise that physicians are leaving large medical groups to form new practices.
Doctors who had been with Atrium Health, formerly Carolinas HealthCare System, and Novant Health have created Tryon Medical Partners and joined Holston Medical Group, respectively, over the last nine months.
Mike Riley, president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, told Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce members Feb. 21 at Northstone Country Club that the transitions fit with the doctors’ personalities.
“Physicians in general tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit to them and some of that kind of plays into why,” said Riley, noting the 41 physicians Lakeside Family Practices who resigned from Novant in January. “As far as the Lakeside docs, they’re fantastic physicians. They do great work. They’re going to continue to partner with us. They just want to have their own autonomy around what they’re trying to do.”
Despite the exodus from the two largest health care networks in metropolitan Charlotte, Bill Leonard, president of Atrium’s University hospital, said this isn’t a nationwide trend. Last June, about 90 doctors left Atrium and were granted release from non-compete clauses in September so they could operate independently.
“We don’t really expect it to be trend that continues, and I think Novant and Atrium will continue to have very large physician groups because it’s too complicated (to leave in large numbers),” Leonard said. “Many of you are in technology. To protect yourself in cyber security issues. Health care is one of the No. 1 targets for cybercrimes.”
Not only are the health care organizations experiencing personnel losses from these events, but also from doctor burnout.
“Physicians are generally high-achievers,” Riley said. “They go 1,000 mph at work and in the office, and when they get home, they’re tired,” Riley said. “They bring their A game to work and D game at home. We’re really working with them to do both, to bring their A game in both places.”
Representing Mooresville’s Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, CEO Steve Midkiff said his hospital has programs to help battle burnout. The rate at which doctors commit suicide is more than double that of the general population, according to a recent National Public Radio report.
“We’re a small hospital, (and) we enjoy the close relationship with our physicians,” Midkiff said. “We do it deliberately to address the burnout issue. We do think it’s one of the biggest issues facing physicians today. … The answers are not going to be big. It’s going to be personal things you can do to get your physician to interact with each other. Hopefully they develop some repore with the administration.”
Davidson is home to Dr. Wayne Sotile, a national expert on physician burnout. And Atrium is one of his biggest clients, Leonard said, noting how much the role of doctors has changed, especially in terms of interaction with other hospital staff members.
“It used to be they could really see people, but when you get isolated and you need people to help you that you don’t have a relationship with because you’ve never met them and you’re just doing electronic transaction, it gets difficult,” Leonard said. “That leadership training and building those relationships, and being purposeful about who we need to know, we’re being serious about that.”
The health care leaders also noted the difficulty in filling “non-traditional” jobs, such as “scrub techs,” imaging and biomedical techs, as well as in the respiratory medicine field.
“When we think about health care, we think about nurses and doctors,” Riley said. “We don’t realize there are literally thousands of other jobs working in health care. There are so many kids who don’t want to go into that four-year degree track. They would be great with a two-year degree and be successful.”