News: Physician burnout drops 10.5 points after spike

CDI Strategies - Volume 13, Issue 9

The rate of physician burnout has dropped 10.5 percentage points over the past three years but remains at an alarming level, according to research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings last week.

The research found that the country’s physician burnout dropped from 54.4% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2017. The rate had been at 45.5% in 2011, according to HealthLeaders Media. The improvement is a positive development, but physician burnout remains a major issue, the researchers wrote.

“The current prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians appears to be lower than 2014 and near 2011 levels. This trend is encouraging and suggests improvement is possible despite the numerous contributing factors and complexity of the problem,” they wrote. “Although the improvement is good news, symptoms of burnout remain a pervasive problem, and its prevalence among physicians continues to be markedly higher than in the general U.S. working population.”

The research is based on data collected from more than 5,000 physicians and included several other key findings:

  • Satisfaction with work-life balance was higher in 2017 (42.7%) than in 2014 (40.9%), but lower than it was in 2011 (48.5%).
  • The depression rate has increased steadily among physicians: 38.2% in 2011, 39.8% in 2014, and 41.87% in 2017.
  • Compared to the general workforce, physicians have a significantly higher rate of burnout: 36.4% of physicians reported emotional exhaustion compared to 24.8% for the general workforce, and 18.0% of physicians reported depersonalization compared to 13.5% of the general workforce.

The researchers identified five potential factors for the reduced levels of burnout in 2017, according to HealthLeaders Media.

  • 2014 may have been an outlier year, with high levels of hospital and medical group consolidation, several new regulations, and heightened administrative burdens.
  • Physicians and their organizations may be adapting to the new practice environment.
  • Physicians who have burned out may be leaving the profession.
  • Large-scale initiatives to reduce physician burnout such as efforts at the American Medical Association and Association of American Medical Colleges may be taking hold.
  • Initiatives designed to improve efficiency of the practice environment such as team-based care could be easing pressure on physicians.

“Efforts to improve physician well-being have proven to be efficacious and should be recognized as potential contributors to the favorable trend,” the researchers wrote.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in HealthLeaders Media. To read the full research report, click here. To read more about physician burnout trends, click here. ACDIS is currently running a survey on the topic of physician engagement. To respond today (and be entered in a giveaway), click here.

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