What are the underlying causes of physician burnout?

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers

August 17, 2018 -- An increase in three factors reflects the steep rise of physician burnout in recent years, according to an article published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine investigated factors triggering burnout based on surveys completed by nearly 7,000 physicians; the data showed an increase in burnout from 45.5% in 2011 to 54.4% in 2014. There were no similar changes in burnout rates among all U.S. workers over the same time period (Am J Med, Vol. 131:8, pp. 857-858).

Five major changes to medical practice during the period studied could have decreased overall levels of physician satisfaction, co-author Dr. Andrew Alexander said in a release from the university:

  1. Hospital purchases of medical groups
  2. Rising prices of medication
  3. The Affordable Care Act
  4. Mandated electronic health records
  5. "Pay for performance," in which providers receive financial incentives to improve quality and efficiency

Together, these shifts in practice sparked an increase in three factors that appear to be associated with physician burnout:

  1. Feelings of cynicism
  2. Lack of enthusiasm for work
  3. Lack of accomplishment (especially due to limitations in patient treatment imposed by insurance companies)

"I see that too many of our seasoned physicians are frustrated with medicine, and it rubs off onto the physicians in training," Alexander said. "Doctors have a wonderful job, yet they are inundated with numerous extraneous burdens that collectively rob them of the joy of medicine."

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