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The Latest on Physician Burnout

By Clive Riddle, August 9, 2019

InCrowd has just released their 16-page 2019 Physician Burnout Survey report - a follow-up to their 2016 burnout research, asking their participating physicians how they’re coping with job-related stress. They found “sixty-eight percent of US-based physicians surveyed reported experiencing burnout at some level,” and that “primary care physicians (PCPs) report higher burnout rates than specialists, with 79% of PCPs personally experiencing burnout compared with 57% of specialists. And, more than a third of InCrowd physicians surveyed said they would not recommend their profession to a young family member.”

The report also shares findings that: 

  • Burnout is highest among younger physicians, with those in their 30s and 40s reporting highest rates of burnout (74%), and burnout rates dropping thereafter.
  • Hospital employees report slightly worse metrics for addressing burnout (20% effective) compared to those who work across private practices (27% effective).
  • Those who report that their facilities effectively address burnout credit workplace initiatives that improve workflow (46%), provide schedule flexibility (45%), and support wellness (41%).
  • When asked what actions their facilities could take to alleviate the issue of physician burnout, over half of respondents report that increased support staffing (66%), mandatory vacation time or half-days (57%), and reduced patient volume (56%) are likely to help. 

InCrowd notes their findings are “higher than the 43-54% range found in MedScape’s 2019 national report yet lower than the 80% of The Physicians Foundation/Merritt Hawkins biennial survey of September 2018. With PCPs, however, InCrowd found nearly 80% burnout levels—dramatically higher than the 43.9% cited in an American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) study of March 2019, which itself reflected a decline from 54.4% in 2014.”

Last month, Spok, Inc. released a paper: "Clinician Burnout in Healthcare: A Report for Healthcare Leaders" providing survey results from over 470 clinical staff at U.S. hospitals and health systems. in which clinician perception of burnout was measured. 92% of clinicians said burnout is “a public health crisis that demands urgent action.” 

When asked "what prevents clinicians from seeking help for potential symptoms of burnout, the No. 1 obstacle cited by respondents (65%) was that their organization lacks institutional attention and resources. When asked how often their organization leaders discuss burnout, 47% said rarely or never."  When asked "whether increased or ineffective technology contributes to the risk of clinician burnout, the vast majority (90% of all respondents) strongly or moderately agreed. And 89% of respondents said burdensome or increased workload (not related to direct patient care) is the biggest factor that contributes to this risk."

The Spok survey also found:

  • 70% experience symptoms of burnout "considerably” or “a great deal.
  • 95% believe improving EHR usability will be at least somewhat helpful
  • 30% of respondents said their organizations are improving EHR usability
  • Nurses use an average of 4.1 technology systems daily 
  • Physicians use an average of 3.9 systems daily and clinical leaders 3.5
  • 20% reported mental health treatment or support is available
  • 13% have a chief wellness officer or equivalent
  • 11% reported not experiencing risk factors including work-related stress, lost satisfaction, or a loss of efficacy in their own work

The Spok survey certainly lays much of the problem at the lap of HER. The InCrowd survey asked for suggestions on how to reduce burnout and “more than half (51%) of those providing additional recommendations suggest improving processes related to administrative burden: 23% suggest employing scribes, 23% advocate for reduced documentation, and 5% propose scheduling more time for charting.” 

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