Doctors Say Hospitals Aren’t Addressing Burnout

According to a new microsurvey by InCrowd, a provider of real-time market intelligence to life sciences and healthcare firms, 74% of U.S. primary care physicians (PCPs) and ER doctors do not feel their healthcare facility or practice is taking effective steps to address and prevent burnout.

The data represents a mid-year checkpoint on physician perceptions as Affordable Care Act (ACA) measures change the nature of doctoring, and as at least 30 major teaching hospitals undertake initiatives aimed at reducing burnout ahead of its potential impact on patient safety and quality outcomes, according to a press release from InCrowd.

Survey Highlights

  • 57% of the primary care and emergency medicine doctors surveyed by InCrowd in May 2016 — two of the specialties reporting the highest burnout rates — said they have personally experienced burnout. An additional 37% of respondents said that while they personally hadn’t experienced burnout, they know others who had.
  • Burnout was defined as decreased enthusiasm for work, depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and a low sense of personal accomplishment.
  • This level mirrors the 54.4% burnout level found by the Mayo Clinic study of December 2015, and the range of between 40-55% across 25 clinical specialties in the MedScape Lifestyles study of January 2016.
  • 37% of respondents in InCrowd’s survey said they felt frustrated by their work a few times weekly, or every day.
  • 58% of respondents either were unsure if they would recommend a career in medicine to a child or family member, or knew they would not.
  • Time pressures were the top cause of physician burnout according to qualitative verbatim responses. “I’m trying to balance the need to work faster, see more patients, generate more income for others, i.e. ACO’s, hospitals, insurers against the fear of error facing irate families, malpractice injuries.  It hardly seems worth the trouble when all I wanted to do was practice medicine and help people,” said one emergency medicine physician from Florida.
  • Electronic medical records (EMR) were the second most frequently reported stressor which “nearly double the time and expense of medical practice for most direct patient care physicians, including physicians in training, without increasing any type of reimbursement,” said a PCP.
  • Verbatim comments reinforced that for many, the passion that brought them to medicine has gotten lost in the system. “Medicine is still a noble career, and can be very rewarding. However, autonomy is gone, and it is frustrating to have to change practice based on metrics, measures, etc. that are often not patient-centered, nor evidence based,” said an emergency medicine physician from California.

“Our study corroborates a stubborn undercurrent of physician burnout as documented elsewhere that isn’t going away,” said Diane Hayes, co-founder and president of InCrowd.  “We’ll be monitoring this important topic as healthcare executives work to make sure those who keep us well, are also keeping themselves intact, too.”

The survey used InCrowd’s mobile microsurvey platform to assess the responses of 200 qualified US-based PCPs and emergency medicine physicians who each have been practicing for 10 or more years. Responses were fielded in a several-hour period on May 13, 2016. Respondents had an average of 17 years in practice. The microsurvey used the Maslach Burnout Inventory of symptoms to determine respondents who could be considered to be experiencing burnout – the same index as used by the Mayo Clinic and MedScape studies.

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