Dip in physician burnout rate suggests improvements, but still a long way to go
The burnout rate among physicians in the United States dropped modestly in 2017 from a peak in 2014 and currently stands near 2011 levels, according to a newly released triennial study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. While acknowledging progress, the American Medical Association (AMA) today warned more needs to be done to reduce physician burnout and called on leaders in the health care system to remain focused on driving research, interventions, workflow and teamwork enhancements, policy changes and technology improvements.
"The tide has not yet turned on the physician burnout crisis," said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D. "Despite improvements in the last three years, burnout levels remain much higher among physicians than other U.S. workers, a gap inflamed as the bureaucracy of modern medicine interferes with patient care and inflicts a toll on the well-being of physicians. There is a strong economic and public health case for prioritizing a comprehensive strategy to reduce the work-induced syndrome of burnout and caregiver fatigue that is pushing physicians out of medicine. An energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce is essential to achieving national health goals."
The new triennial study conducted by researchers from the AMA, the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University School of Medicine found 43.9 percent of U.S. physicians exhibited at least one symptom of burnout in 2017, compared with 54.4 percent in 2014 and 45.5 percent in 2011. In comparison, the overall prevalence of burnout among U.S. workers was 28.1 percent in 2017, similar to levels found in 2014 (28.4 percent) and 2011 (28.6 percent).
Since 2012, the AMA has led the national conversation on the physician burnout crisis and advocated for new thinking and solutions that acknowledge physicians cannot solve the crisis on their own. The emerging consensus that has developed among health care leaders recognizes that wide-spanning change in the culture of medicine needs to emphasize physician well-being.
"The progress demonstrated in today's research suggests that growing national efforts to address physician burnout are on the right track, but more work is needed to achieve meaningful change," said Dr. McAneny. "Addressing the crisis requires continued investment from the health system in a comprehensive strategy that targets barriers to efficiently providing patients with high-quality care as the primary driver of physician burnout."
The AMA's ongoing work to reduce physician burnout is striving to attack the dysfunction in health care by removing the obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care. The AMA offers physicians and health systems a choice of cutting edge tools, information and resources to help rekindle a joy in medicine, including:
- STEPS Forward™ - The AMA offers a collection of more than 50 award‐winning online tools that help physicians and medical teams make transformative changes to their practices and covers everything from managing stress and preventing burnout to improving practice workflow.
- Institutional Assessments - The AMA assesses burnout levels within medical organizations to provide a baseline metric for implementing solutions and interventions that reduce system-level burnout rates and improve physician well-being.
- American Conference on Physician Health - The AMA, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine host a unique conference to be held Sept. 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C. to promote health and well-being in the ranks of U.S. physicians.
- Debunking Regulatory Myths - The AMA provides regulatory clarifications to physicians and their care teams to aid in their day-to-day practice environment.
- EHRSeeWhatWeMean.org - A collaboration between the AMA and MedStar Health to demonstrate the risks and challenges caused by poor usability in electronic health record technology that reduce time available for physicians to care for patients.
The AMA continues to work on every front to address the physician burnout crisis. Through our research, collaborations, advocacy and leadership, the AMA is working to make the patient‐physician relationship more valued than paperwork, preventive care the focus of the future, technology an asset and not a burden, and physician burnout a thing of the past.