- New research from athenahealth found turnover is highest for physicians in their 30s, with rates close to 16%. Additionally, physicians experiencing signs of burnout are three times more likely to indicate they're going to leave their organization within three years.
- It builds on earlier findings that high-performing organizations practicing "capability," a model that offers physicians the tools, resources and latitude they need to feel comfortable doing their job, experience much lower burnout rates at 27%, compared to 51%.
- The latest data, gathered from a sample of more than 50,000 providers, found turnover rates are highest for primary care providers at about 14% and lowest for orthopedic and OBGYN specialties at 6.3% and 7.2%, respectively.
Physician burnout is a known and costly problem in the industry, estimated to cost hospitals and health systems as much as $1.7 billion a year. Burnout-related turnover among all U.S. physicians costs as much as $17 billion a year.
The issue isn't going away, with recent research showing that as many as two-thirds of U.S. physicians reporting feeling burned out, depressed or both, according to a Medscape survey of 15,000 practicing physicians. To alleviate the problem, 56% of respondents in that survey suggested fewer bureaucratic tasks and 39% suggested fewer hours spent working.
Moreover, only 9% of male physicians and 11% of female physicians in the Medscape survey said they are currently looking for help from professionals. According to athenahealth, the problem is exacerbated by physicians often being laden with the responsibility of coming up with a solution for burnout.
Jess Sweeney-Platt, executive director of enterprise strategy at athenahealth, told Healthcare Dive that burnout is at least as much a function of the failure of the healthcare system and the structures that surround physicians as it is a failure of physician resilience.
"The solutions to burnout are often times, not always, but often times, positioned as things the physician needs to do to make him or herself more resilient," Sweeney-Platt said. "Mindfulnesss, taking vacation time, doing things to relieve stress ... It puts a lot of burden on the physician as an individual to 'solve' the burnout problem."
A recent Press Ganey study corroborates the need for organizations to better accommodate physicians and give them the resources they need to do their jobs well. It lays out measures to help companies identify sources of burnout.
“By understanding the drivers of clinician burnout, as well as those rewards that can counter it, healthcare leaders can develop solutions that target the risk factors, introduce protective factors, and help clinicians rediscover their sense of purpose and achieve professional fulfillment," Joe Cabral, chief human resource officer at Press Ganey said in a statement.
Sweeney-Platt said physicians who feel they are equipped with the tools, resources and latitude they need to do their job — their capability, in short — have "significantly lower intent" to leave their jobs, experience much lower levels of burnout and have higher patient engagement levels.
The organization plans on further fanning out the concept of capability in coming research, and will be implementing method analyses to understand the drivers of capability and the levers physician organizations have at their disposal to move the needle on burnout.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify takeaways from the Press Ganey study.