- Nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned out (42%), depressed (15%) or both (14%), according to a new Medscape survey of 15,000 practicing physicians.
- In addition, 33% of respondents stated these depressive feelings impact their relations with patients.
- To alleviate burnout, 56% of respondents suggested fewer bureaucratic tasks and 39% suggested fewer hours spent working. About one-third of physicians suggested more money and a more manageable work schedule.
The report doesn't reveal much that isn't already known — physicians are burned out — it does serve to highlight the ongoing issue and advance discussion about what can be done.
The highest rates of burnout are among family physicians, intensivists, internists, neurologists and OB-GYNs. Burnout rates were higher among women (48% vs. 38% for men). As to be expected, burnout rates climbed while advancing up through age groups/career points with physicians ages 45-50 experiencing the highest rate of burnout (50%). Younger physicians ages 28-34 experienced a burnout rate of 35%.
Some of the familiar culprits are to blame for burnout: documentation (56%) and increased computerization of work with EHRs (24%). These echo studies and reports in recent years highlighting the damage administrative burden can do to a physician's morale.
An Annals of Family Medicine paper last September revealed primary care physicians spent more than half their workday on EHR tasks.
The severity of the issue is two-fold. Not only are physicians suffering, many not seeking professional help despite potential patient outcomes being at risk.. Only 9% of male physicians and 11% of female physicians are currently looking for help from professionals according to the survey.
One in three depressed physicians said they are more easily exasperated by patients; 32% said they were less engaged with patients; and 29% admitted to being less friendly.
Nearly 15% admitted that their depression might cause them to make errors they wouldn't ordinarily make, and 5% linked it to errors they had made that could have harmed a patient.
This is an ongoing issues and health execs should recognize that physicians and healthcare workforce staff from administrative to clinical roles make up the face of their organization. With healthcare being an industry that increasingly relies on a patient experience and reputation, physician depression and burnout should be top of mind to improve the health of an organization.