- One in five U.S. doctors plans to cut back on clinical work time in the next year and about one in 50 plans to quit medicine in the next two years for a different career, a new survey shows.
- The survey, conducted by the American Medical Association and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, is based on responses from 6,452 physicians from all medical specialties over a six-week period in 2014.
- Of those, 19.8% said reported likely or definitely intend to reduce clinical work hours in the next 12 months, while 26.6% said they will likely or definitely leave their current practice in the next two years. Nearly 2% of those planning to leave their practice said they would pursue work outside of medicine.
Driving these feelings were burnout, a growing sense of work-life imbalance and frustration with EHRs. If doctors act on the intentions expressed in the survey, it could seriously worsen the physician shortage in the U.S., the researchers say.
Just about every month brings a new study on physician satisfaction — or lack of, as is often the case. In one study, primary care physicians reported spending more than half their workday on EHR and administrative tasks. In a recent Medscape survey, nearly half of respondents said they are frequently or occasionally bothered by EHRs. The findings echoed other studies linking computer work to physician burnout.
They also point to the proliferation of regulations under the Affordable Care Act and MACRA. A report released last week by the American Hospital Association cited 629 distinct requirements with which hospitals, health systems and post-acute care facilities must comply. Often those tasks fall on physicians and other care providers.
“An energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce is essential to achieving national health goals,” AMA President David Barbe said in a statement. “Yet burnout is more common among physicians than other U.S. workers, and that gap is increasing as mounting obstacles to patients [sic] care contribute to emotional fatigue, depersonalization and loss of enthusiasm among physicians.”
He called physicians the “canary in the coal mine” and said the AMA is urging lawmakers, hospitals and insurers to deal with health system dysfunction now.
Tackling the issue is about more than keeping doctors happy. It can cost $800,000 or more to replace to replace a physician, the study notes — meaning its good business sense to have a stable workforce.