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Study: Physician burnout is at an all-time high

Written on Oct 7, 2022

After declining for six years, the burnout rate among doctors began to spike with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by the American Medical Association (AMA), Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine. By the end of 2021, some 21 months later, the physician burnout rate rose to an unprecedented high. 

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that the prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians was 62.8% in 2021, compared with 38.2% in 2020, 43.9% in 2017, 54.4% in 2014 and 45.5% in 2011. 

The result is that one in five physicians intends to leave their current practice within two years.  

Though occupational burnout among doctors is higher relative to the U.S. workforce, stretched thin during the pandemic, emotionally exhausted clinicians exhibited cynicism, disillusionment and career disengagement. 

The AMA Recovery Plan for America's Physicians, a roadmap released in June, addresses the needs of doctors with five key goals: 

  • Supporting telehealth 
  • Reforming Medicare payment 
  • Stopping scope creep 
  • Fixing prior authorization burdens 
  • Reducing physician burnout. 

Job regrets are greatest in hospital settings among doctors aged 31-50 working in emergency medicine, according to an analysis of 170 studies involving more than 239,000 doctors by the University of Manchester in England. 

That study also found patients treated by burned-out doctors face additional risks when they receive care.  

Suddenly delivering care virtually – and managing the intense workloads that come along with it – has been a worldwide problem, closely linked to electronic health record usability and administrative burdens. 

Technology can alleviate administrative burdens so that doctors can focus more on patients. 

UCHealth added real-time prescription benefit software to alleviate tasks like making phone calls to the pharmacy to ask about cost information or manually searching for medication alternatives or coupons and to provide greater price transparency to patients.