Unlocking Opportunities: Where Doctors Are Hurting In 2024


We are excited to launch the first results of the 2024 So What? Research Survey of Australian Doctors (n=505), that identifies the biggest challenges for Specialists (n=258) and GPs (n=247) across Australia and what that can mean for the pharmaceutical industry.

In this article we reveal:

  • The top 5 pain points for doctors in 2024
  • How these have changed from 2022
  • The individual challenges for different specialties
  • How can you help support doctors with these challenges?

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, doctors continue to face a myriad of challenges that impact not only their professional lives but also their personal well-being.

The graphic below shows the recurring pain points that persist for specialists, shaping the daily experiences of these dedicated healthcare professionals, although their order of importance has shifted since our last survey (August 2022).

While GPs share most of the same pain points, poor remuneration is by far the standout challenge for them, with low Medicare rebates and payroll tax issues (see bottom graphic). The large numbers of patients needing to be bulk billed adds to this challenge.

1. Staff Shortages

The top pain point for specialists is the persistent issue of staff shortages which reverberates across various specialties, exacerbating the strain on healthcare systems. This has jumped to the number one place from a second-place ranking in 2022.

Medical Oncologists highlight the critical need for adequate staffing to address the glaring inequities in access to care. The drain of skills into telehealth and private sectors, as noted by Psychiatrists, further compounds this challenge, leaving public healthcare facilities grappling with diminished resources. Haematologists echo these sentiments, emphasising the unsustainable nature of current patient-to-doctor ratios, especially in regional areas. Surgeons and Respiratory Physicians concur, underscoring the overwhelming burden on services due to understaffing.

2. Workload

Workload, the number one pain point in 2022 has slipped to second place heading into 2024.

Specialists continued to grapple with an unrelenting workload, leaving little room for personal respite. Cardiologists express concerns over the sheer volume of patients, lamenting the lack of time for themselves and their families. General Physicians highlight the pervasive issue of burnout stemming from the relentless patient workload. Endocrinologists shed light on the ballooning wait times for consultations, driven by the weight of referrals and existing patient caseloads.

3. Paperwork

Jumping up from fifth place in 2022, the escalating administrative burden emerges as a significant pain point in delivering quality patient care.

Medical Oncologists bemoan the scarcity of time for thorough patient assessments, citing excessive paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles emphasising the inundation of forms and requests associated with compassionate access programs. Rheumatologists echo these sentiments in relation to advanced therapies applications. The time-consuming nature of administrative tasks, from correspondence with GPs to managing patient requests, weighs heavily on specialists' daily responsibilities.

4. Lack of resources

Despite their dedication, specialists often find themselves constrained by a lack of resources essential for optimal care delivery although this pain point has dropped one ranking in order of importance from third place in 2022.

Gastroenterologists lament the inadequacy of resources to meet the burgeoning demands of both inpatients and outpatients. Cardiologists underscore the challenge of providing optimal care with a lack of resources. Psychiatrists highlight the inability to discharge patients due to the dearth of support services, further exacerbating the strain on healthcare systems.

5. Patient Needs & Demands

Specialists are grappling with the evolving needs and expectations of patients, compounded by systemic challenges. Haematologists confront the conundrum of balancing high patient expectations with the realities of healthcare economics, citing the discrepancy between Medicare rebates and the cost of living. Dermatologists face mounting frustration from patients over extended wait times and the perceived cost of medical care. Geriatricians observe a concerning trend of increasingly complex and sicker inpatients, adding another layer of complexity to their practice.

Pain Points - By Specialty

If we break the respondents down into their respective specialties, we see different pain points in the number one slot.

Onc/Haem: PBS restrictions

The limited access to drugs on the PBS is the biggest pain point for medical oncologists and haematologists. For example, where mutations are being identified in many cancers but the access to drugs that act on those mutations is limited and only achieved by clinical trials.

Cardiology: Workload

The pressure on cardiologists is showing no signs of slowing down this year.

Endocrinology: Drug shortages

The lack of availability of GLP-1 medications such as Ozempic and Mounjaro is most affecting this sector.

Rheumatology: Paperwork

Administrative burden emerges as the # 1 pain point for Rheumatologists, citing excessive paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles in relation to PBS applications for advanced therapies such as biologics.

Psychiatry: Staff shortages

Psychiatrists, more so than any other specialty, are burdened by staff shortages.

What can you do?

It's important to understand these challenges for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's crucial that your representatives who meet or interact with doctors show understanding and empathy for the pressures that doctors face daily. This can greatly enhance connection and develop relationships.

Secondly, what can you, your company and your industry do to help support doctors through any of these challenges? While staff shortages and workload may be beyond that scope, can you ensure any patient programs or HCP portals don't include a lot of unnecessary paperwork or admin for doctors? Are there ways you interact with healthcare professionals that can be streamlined?

There might not be easy or immediately identifiable answers but supporting doctors should be top of mind for the industry this year.

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About the Survey

These findings are based on a self-funded survey So What Research conducted in December 2023 with respondents on our HCP panel. A total of n=258 Specialists and n=247 GPs completed the short survey. It covered topics such as quality and quantity of in-person and digital engagement with pharma, how pharma can better collaborate with HCPs, social media use, and use of patient support programs.

Stay tuned for more results in upcoming newsletters!