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More than 90% of docs feeling burned out: survey


More than 90% of physicians report feeling burned out on a regular basis, and more than half say they have considered no longer seeing patients or leaving medicine entirely, a new survey finds. Moreover, fewer than 40% think the organization or practice where they work is doing well financially.

Those findings emerge from the third athenahealth Physician Sentiment Survey conducted by The Harris Poll. The survey polled 1,003 primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists, of whom 5% were athenahealth customers.

The survey also revealed significant concerns among doctors about their employers’ financial health, with only 38% saying that their organization or practice is on a solid financial footing. However, nearly half (47%) of doctors whose employers use a combination of fee-for-service and value-based payment models believe their organization/practice is financially strong, substantially higher than among those where only one of the payment models is used.

Among the 93% feeling burned out, 62% cited excessive administrative burden as the main reason, with nearly two-thirds (64%) saying they feel overwhelmed by these burdens. Nearly half (45%) cited litigation and concerns over malpractice as the reasons for feeling burned out.

Survey respondents expressed unhappiness over their daily workload, with 49% saying it is unsustainable. Those who feel that way estimated they spend 17.5 hours per week working outside of normal business hours.

“Physicians, and the clinical teams they work with, are the lifeblood of the American healthcare system,” Nele Jessel, M.D., athenahealth’s chief medical officer said in an accompanying press release. “But despite working so hard for so long…many of us are tired of fighting in the face of overwhelming bureaucracy, constant regulatory changes, and increasingly complex payer requirements.”

The survey revealed mixed feelings regarding the impact of electronic health records (EHRs). Nearly two-thirds (65%) say EHRs help them provide high-quality care, and 58% believe the technology helps them managed their patient workload. But 60% say EHRs don’t help them with their biggest challenge, reducing time spent on administrative tasks.

"In order for physicians to fully benefit from AI as a care enhancement tool, they need to experience more advantages and fewer added complexities or burdens.”

Respondents expressed guarded optimism over the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve health care, with 39% saying they are optimistic about it, 21% saying they are pessimistic, and 41% saying they aren’t sure. Among the technology’s potential benefits cited were its ability to identify patterns and anomalies in patient data that a physician might overlook, reduce administrative burdens, and monitor real-time patient data.

However, 60% of those surveyed—including 67% of PCPs—said they were concerned about the potential loss of human touch, and 40% felt that expectations for AI are being hyped beyond what it can deliver.

“In order for physicians to fully benefit from AI as a care enhancement tool, they need to experience more advantages and fewer added complexities or burdens,” Jessel said. “If we get this right, we’ll be using the technology to reduce administrative work and increase efficiencies that allow physicians to refocus on their patients.”

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