Physician burnout peaked in 2014: Mayo, AMA & Stanford researchers offer solution

Written by Rachel Popa | February 22, 2019 | Print  |

Burnout among U.S. physicians improved slightly between 2014 and 2017 but remains relatively high, according to a triennial study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researchers from the American Medical Association, Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine and Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic collected 5,445 responses from two surveys fielded to physicians, and compared burnout scores to surveys conducted in 2011, 2014 and 2017.

The rate of U.S. physicians reporting at least one burnout symptom decreased 10.5 percentage points between 2014 and 2017, from 54.4 percent to 43.9 percent. The prevalence of burnout among the U.S. workforce was 28.1 percent in 2017 and 28.4 percent in 2014.

The 2014 burnout rate could be attributed to stressors such as high hospital consolidation activity, more regulations and increasing prevalence of EHRs, researchers said. Improvement since 2014 could reflect physicians leaving the workforce or reducing clinical effort.

Two additional findings:

• While researchers found burnout rates decreased in the past three years, the depression rate among physicians rose from 39.8 percent in 2014 to 41.7 percent in 2017, a steady increase from the 2011 rate of 38.2 percent.

• In addition to reporting less burnout, physicians felt more satisfied with their work-life balance in 2017 than they did in 2014, when the satisfaction rate was 40.9 percent. However, the 2017 satisfaction rate of 42.7 percent was a drop from the 2011 rate of 48.5 percent.

“The tide has not yet turned on the physician burnout crisis," said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD. "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."

As for potential solutions to the ongoing burnout issue, the researchers said, "a coordinated, systems-based approach at both the national and organizational levels that addresses the underlying drivers is the key to making progress."

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