Burdened by bureaucracy, more physicians are burning out, report finds

Dive Brief:

  • More than half of all U.S. physicians are experiencing burnout, according to the new Medscape Lifestyle Report 2017, which summarizes the results of the most recent Medscape Physician Lifestyle Survey. The survey includes responses from 14,000 physicians.

  • The worst stressors are related to the non-medical aspects of the job, such as bureaucratic tasks and the ever-growing use of EHRs, according to the survey.

  • In addition, half of the physicians surveyed admitted having biases against patients with certain attributes, including lack of health coverage.

Dive Insight:

Caught in the crossfire between patients and payers, doctors spend more time than ever on less-than-rewarding work. Although bureaucratic tasks topped the list of burnout causes, it’s difficult to draw the line between those tasks and others lower in the list, such as EHR use, insurance issues, Affordable Care Act impacts and spending too many hours at work, which no doubt results from the combination of many factors.

And now, with the future of the insurance marketplace and ACA-related requirements in question—and with experts like HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell predicting disastrous consequences should the ACA be repealed—the work environment could be unlikely to improve as reform could be mired in confusion.

Although biases were not listed as a possible cause of burnout, many physicians did admit to being biased to the point that it affected their treatment of patients. Lack of insurance coverage, which ranked fifth in the list of biases that negatively affect treatment, was particularly notable given the predicted results of an ACA repeal and the huge number of patients who may soon fall into this category. Sixteen percent of the responding physicians admitted biases affected their treatment. The top reported biases included (from top to bottom):

  • Language differences;
  • Emotional problems;
  • Heavier weight;
  • Low intelligence;
  • Lack of insurance coverage;
  • Physical unattractiveness;
  • Low income;
  • Race different from self;
  • Older age; and 
  • Gender different from self

"The only bias that half of respondents said leads to positive treatment is older age," the report noted.

Filed Under: Hospital Administration Practice Management
Top image credit: Deviant Art/Rexem