Still miserable, physicians say there are seven ways – in addition to improving the EHR – that hospitals and health systems can address physician burnout.
In October, Geneia released part one of results of a national physician survey commissioned to identify solutions to epidemic levels of physician burnout and dissatisfaction among employed doctors. The online survey of 401 employed physicians showed physician burnout levels remain quite high. It also demonstrated physicians want to be treated like the valued employees they are.
The survey findings about physician dissatisfaction mirrored those from Geneia's initial survey in 2015 and a follow-up survey in 2018, which found that the Physician Misery Index had increased to 3.94 out of 5:
- Eight in 10 (84 percent) say the quality time doctors are able to spend with patients has decreased in the last 10 years.
- More than three-quarters (77 percent) know a physician who is likely to stop practicing medicine in the next five years due to burnout.
- Nearly three-quarters of surveyed physicians (74 percent) say the challenges of practicing medicine in today's environment have caused them to consider career options outside of clinical practice.
The Surprises in Geneia's New Physician Survey
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the recent survey was the longing physicians have to be treated like the valued employees they are. As Geneia's president, I know the desire to have enough time and support to do one's job is an issue many employers – including me – struggle with, as is employee engagement.
While this realization is sobering, it also is encouraging.
Physician dissatisfaction is a complex issue, and there's no silver bullet to restore the joy of medicine. Undoubtedly, EHRs remain a well-deserved lightning rod for physicians, and the health IT industry needs to step up its commitment to improving the usability of technology, but there also are other ways healthcare organizations can help to improve physician satisfaction.
Seven ways employers of physicians can help restore the joy of medicine:
The findings in Geneia's 2019 survey of employed physicians led us to conclude there are seven solutions – in addition to improving the EHR – that healthcare organizations can use to help address physician burnout:
1. Listen. Ensure physicians know they've been heard.
The employed physicians we surveyed said one good way to do this is to put more purpose, clarity and intention behind physician engagement surveys in the workplace. Offer concrete examples of ways the survey results have or will impact change.
2. Offer professional development opportunities, not just EHR training.
Ninety percent of surveyed physicians said it’s important for employers to offer professional opportunities for physicians (43 percent very important.)
3. Carefully consider ways to give physicians the option to have more time with patients who have complex healthcare needs.
While it's true physicians, especially those who work in primary care, would like more time with all patients, the intensity of physician feeling is stronger for patients with complex healthcare needs. A near unanimous 97 percent of respondents say that it is important for employers of physicians to increase the current allocation of time per patient (64 percent very important – 33 percent somewhat important).
Americans are aging and are sicker. With half of American adults diagnosed with one chronic condition and more than 25 percent having two or more chronic conditions, chances are these patients need more time with their primary care physician than a 10-20 minute office visit to avoid preventable trips to the emergency department and hospital.
For complete survey results, and the rest of the seven solutions to address physician burnout, I invite you to download the comprehensive report.
Our complete report includes a deeper dive into the:
- costs of physician burnout
- trend toward physician employment
- professional development interests of physicians