Another study underscores high incidence of physician burnout; still a national problem

Aug. 8, 2019
Only 25 percent say their facilities are effective in combating burnout

According to a new study by InCrowd, 68 percent of U.S.-based physicians surveyed reported experiencing burnout at some level. The survey of primary care (PCPs) physicians and specialists, performed in early June 2019, documents an aggregate burnout level across multiple specialties that is higher than the 43 percent to 54 percent range found in MedScape’s 2019 national report yet lower than the 80 percent of The Physicians Foundation/Merritt Hawkins biennial survey of September 2018.  

With PCPs, however, InCrowd found nearly 80 percent burnout levels—dramatically higher than the 43.9 percent cited in an American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) study of March 2019, which itself reflected a decline from 54.4 percent in 2014. Only 25 percent of InCrowd respondents felt their facilities were effectively addressing burnout, said the company in a news release.

“The alarming persistence of physician burnout over the years and across multiple studies unfortunately demonstrates that we have not yet turned the tide on this problematic issue,” said Diane Hayes, PhD, co-founder and president of InCrowd, in the statement. “Since we last looked at this in 2016, there really haven’t been any notable improvements. The healthcare industry would benefit from refining and expanding current initiatives to assure adequate staffing levels needed to deliver the quality care patients deserve.” 

Key findings from the research include:

• PCPs report higher burnout rates than specialists, with 79 percent of PCPs personally experiencing burnout compared with 57 percent of specialists.

• Of the 23 percent who said that specialty plays a large role in burnout, respondents were split as to whether PCPs vs. specialists were more affected.

• Burnout is highest among younger physicians, with those in their 30s and 40s reporting highest rates of burnout (74 percent), and burnout rates dropping thereafter.

• More than one-third (34 percent) of physicians would not recommend the profession to young family members, with 32 percent citing that it’s not worth the sacrifices, financial, emotional, and otherwise.

• Hospital employees report slightly worse metrics for addressing burnout (20 percent effective) compared to those who work across private practices (27 percent effective).

As for what’s working, those who report that their facilities effectively address burnout credit workplace initiatives that:

• improve workflow (46 percent)

• provide schedule flexibility (45 percent)

• support wellness (41 percent)

When asked what actions their facilities could take to alleviate the issue of physician burnout, over half of respondents report that the following changes would help:

• increased support staffing (66 percent)

• mandatory vacation time or half-days (57 percent)

• reduced patient volume (56 percent)

Suggestions for fixes to the burnout issue 51 percent focused on addressing the administrative burden. Ideas included the use of scribes for dealing with electronic medical records and providing admin time—40 mins per day and one half-day per week.