A new study indicates the ongoing focus on physician burnout is not unwarranted. The number of physicians unhappy in their practices is on the upswing.
Medscape’s Lifestyle Report 2016 found that the burnout rate for physicians in 25 specialties surveyed went up from past studies. Fifty percent or more of respondents from a dozen specialties reported a lack of personal accomplishment, cynicism about their work, and a general lack of joy coming into the office.
Among those were family physicians, 54 percent of whom said they were burned out.
On a scale of one to seven, with seven being the worst, family physicians rated their feelings of burnout at 4.37. This was the seventh-highest severity rating, tied with cardiologists. Critical care physicians reported a slightly higher rating at 4.74. Psychiatrists reported the lowest rating at 3.85.
Female physicians again reported a higher prevalence of burnout (55 percent) than their male counterparts (46 percent), although both genders have seen a steady increase since 2013 (45 percent and 37 percent, respectively).
Respondents identified increased bureaucratic tasks as the leading cause of their burnout, although working too many hours, increasing use of computers, and inadequate income also scored highly.
The survey, which polled almost 16,000 physicians, also asked about potential biases toward specific groups of patients and how likely those biases affected the treatment they provided. It found that overall 40 percent of physicians reported some level of bias, with family physicians reporting the fourth-highest level at 47 percent. The highest was among emergency medicine physicians (62 percent), while the lowest was among pathologists (10 percent), a specialty that rarely deals with patients directly.
In terms of whether bias affected patient treatment, 11 percent of family physicians said it did, the same rate as orthopedists, psychiatrists, and rheumatologists. The highest rates were 14 percent of emergency medicine physicians and 12 percent of plastic surgeons. The survey noted that of those who reported that their biases affected how they treated their patients, 29 percent said the effect was negative, 25 percent said it was positive (e.g., overcompensation and special treatment), and 24 percent said it was a mix of the two.
The survey also suggested there may be a relationship between burnout, which can cause depersonalization, and bias. Forty-three percent of physicians who reported burnout also reported bias, whereas 36 percent of physicians who did not report burnout reported bias.
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