Over 50% of US Physicians now suffering at least one symptom of burnout. Depression and suicidal ideation rates even more concerning.
For a while now I have been suspicious that physician burnout rates are increasing here in the USA, especially in the last five years or so. There is just too much political chaos, marketplace M&A activity and documentation overload for it to be otherwise.
Finally the research has caught up with this suspicion in the latest version of Mayo’s landmark 2011 physician burnout study. Here is our smoking gun at last. Unfortunately the numbers are bad and the burnout numbers, though mind boggling, are not the most concerning finding.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings this month published results of round two of their survey of burnout in physicians compared to burnout in the “normal population”. The first round in 2011 was major news across the country and the first study that compared physician burnout rates to those of non-physician workers.
The burnout rates are what I expected. The shocker is the number of physicians screening positive for depression and suicidal ideation that no one is reporting on.
In my work with hundreds of over stressed and burned out physicians, one thing is constant. Documentation is always one of their biggest sources of stress.
In fact, if you ask the average working doctor to make a list of their top five stresses, documentation chores will take up three of the five slots.
1. EMR – especially if you use multiple EMR software programs that don’t talk to each other
2. Dealing with lab reports and refill requests
3. Returning patient and consultant calls and documenting them adequately and all the other places information streams have to be forced together by the sweat of your brow.
The average doc is walking the cliff edge of overload on a significant number of office days in any given month. Now comes ICD-10 and my biggest fear is the extra work of the new coding system will push many physicians over the edge into burnout.
How much more time will ICD-10 take?
Burnout is a chronic epidemic in physicians and a major threat to patient satisfaction and quality care. Recent research is showing that women and men experience burnout differently.
Numerous studies have shown that an average of 1 in 3 practicing physicians are suffering from symptomatic burnout on any given office day … worldwide, regardless of specialty. There is good evidence to believe the physician burnout rate is higher in the USA than in other world markets simply because of the uncertain political and payment environment and the massive merger and acquisition activities across the country. As evidence, the 2015 Medscape Physician’s Lifestyle Survey showed a 46% burnout rate, 16% higher than the same survey in 2013.
The three classic signs and symptoms of burnout are measured by a standardized evaluation; the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) developed by Christina Maslach and her team at the University of San Francisco in the 1970’s.
Here is Maslach’s description of the experience of burnout: “… an erosion of the soul caused by a deterioration of one’s values, dignity, spirit and will.” The three symptoms of the MBI are.