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Study shows rise in physician burnout, dissatisfaction

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Heather Lavoie, president, Geneia. (Contributed)
Heather Lavoie, president, Geneia. (Contributed)

Physicians are increasingly dissatisfied with their profession, fueled in part by the business and regulation of health care and greater demand to report data for electronic health records, according to a study released today by Geneia, a Harrisburg-based health care analytics company.

The annual study of 300 full-time physicians nationwide, called the physician misery index, showed dissatisfaction increased to a level of 3.94 out of 5, compared to 3.78 when the survey began in 2015.

The survey showed women physicians, in particular, are frustrated by the challenges of practicing medicine and expressed greater dissatisfaction than their male counterparts.

Heather Lavoie, president of Geneia, said physicians are frustrated by “administrative detail,” the result of increased regulation and electronic health records.

Lavoie said the study did not probe why women physicians had higher levels of dissatisfaction or if they had higher expectations and therefore saw a larger discrepancy between “ideally what they thought they would be doing and the reality of what it’s like on a daily basis.”

The study found:

• 87 percent said it is increasingly hard to spend time “developing an authentic engagement with each patient.”

• 80 percent said they are personally at risk for burnout at some point in their career.

• 96 percent reported they have personally witnessed or personally experienced negative impacts as a result of physician burnout.

• 66 percent said the challenges of practicing medicine in today’s environment have caused them to consider career options outside of clinical practice – an 11 percent increase compared to 2015.

• 89 percent said the “business and regulations of health care” have changed the practice of medicine for the worse. The intensity of agreement has increased since 2015: 57 percent strongly agree compared to 48 percent in 2015.

• 86 percent agree that “the heightened demand for data reporting to support quality metrics and the business side of health care has diminished my joy in practicing medicine.”

Since the advent of electronic health records, a relatively recent technology, physicians are increasingly being held accountable for outcomes and are measured based on performance.

“Everyone is measuring them slightly differently, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, to insurance payors, to large hospital organizations. That burden of documentation falls down on the shoulders of physicians and many feel they are data entry clerks as opposed to working at the top of their license in diagnosing and treating patients,” Lavoie said.

The survey showed physicians continue to be challenged by the electronic health record (EHR).

• 68 percent said the data collected by EHRs isn’t being used and analyzed to its full potential.

• 96 percent believe it’s important for EHRs to be better designed so they seamlessly integrate with technology systems used by their offices and insurers.

Lavoie said part of the challenge is that the health care system is on a learning curve with EHRs.

“There’s no question about the validity of it, and residents can’t imagine life any other way, but the design of those systems, that’s a burden all of us as IT vendors, we need to bear to optimize that,” she said.

Lavoie said EHR systems could be redesigned to lessen the burden for physicians, as well as enlisting the help of other members of their health care team.

“There’s a high degree of cynicism and still a strong belief that the system can be improved to solve these challenges,” she said

A number of major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, have raised concerns about physician dissatisfaction and are committed to improving the system.

“We are not alone,” Lavoie said.

“I think there is a role for all of us to play,” she added.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@lvb.com

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