Burnout is now an official medical diagnosis, according to WHO

May 28, 2019

Physicians can now diagnose burnout. Ironically, physicians are one of the most burned out professions.

Physicians can now diagnose a patient with “burnout,” according to a decision made by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The decision by the international healthcare group adds burnout to the International Classification of Diseases, 11th Edition (ICD-11). Right now, the United States healthcare system still uses ICD-10, and so it’s unclear how this decision would affect diagnoses, coding and documentation in the United States.

According to the WHO, physicians can issue a diagnosis of burnout if a patient exhibits three symptoms:

• feeling depleted of energy or exhausted;
• feeling mentally distanced from or cynical about one's job; and
• problems getting one's job done successfully.

Burnout should only be diagnosed specifically in the context of work and occupational issues, and “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Ironically, perhaps, physicians are one of the most burned out professions, and there is an ongoing and wide-ranging investigation to determine the causes of physician burnout and how the medical system can adapt to reduce occupational stress and improve work-life balance.

Medical Economics will update this story as it develops.