Physician burnout spikes 25% in 4 years

A new survey of more than 14,000 physicians shows that physician burnout has increased by 25% in just four years.

And the current political climate and likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act may be adding to physician anxiety. More doctors are reporting burnout, according to Medscape’s Physician Lifestyle Survey for 2017.

Physician burnout, defined in the survey as a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism and a low sense of personal accomplishment, has been trending up with an increase of 25% from 2013 when the publication first asked about it. The overall rate was 40% in 2013, and it increased to 51% in the current survey.

Burnout is connected to many ACA-related and healthcare reform issues, including too many bureaucratic tasks, the increased use of electronic health records, insurance issues and the threat of malpractice, which were all within the top 10 reasons physicians gave for burnout.

Republican congressional leaders and President-elect Donald Trump are both promising to repeal and replace the health reform law, which provides insurance to millions of Americans. Trump said yesterday that he wants to both repeal and replace the ACA quickly.

The Medscape survey explored how ethnicity and unconscious bias toward patients may be related to physician burnout. Nearly half of doctors (45%) said they have a negative bias toward patients who lack insurance coverage, a number that is likely to increase with repeal of the ACA.

The survey asked doctors from more than 30 specialties to identify their race and/or ethnicity. Half of all physicians admit a bias toward certain patient groups, but the majority say it does not impact treatment. Doctors said biases may result in less time spent with patients or a less friendly manner toward them, but only 16% say that it affects treatment.

The top five triggers among physicians for patient bias were language barriers, emotional problems, overweight, perceived low intelligence and a lack of insurance. Half of responding physicians acknowledged a negative bias toward patients who are overweight.