Jan 21, 2021

Provider Burnout Is on the Rise— What’s the Antidote?

Helen Farnen   |   Updated December 15   |  Reading time: 3 minutes


Recent studies show that 42% of physicians in the United States report feeling symptoms of burnout. Much more significant than just a stressful day, burnout manifests itself emotionally, physically, and mentally. Burnout is caused by prolonged periods of stress, a common experience for healthcare providers. 

The healthcare industry’s unrelenting pace combined with long hours, bureaucratic processes, and the emotional toll of caring for the sick is enough to wear down even the most resolute of providers. Case in point: the American Medical Association reports that burnout among physicians is higher than in other professions with similar levels of education and training.

In fact, burnout among physicians can have a greater impact than in other professions. Physicians experiencing burnout are more likely to suffer from reduced attention spans, recall, and executive functioning. These effects cost the healthcare system an estimated $4.6 billion annually

What’s Behind Physician Burnout?

The nature of the occupation presents stress hazards for healthcare providers. Constant exposure to sick and dying patients places a heavy emotional burden on providers and can even lead to similar conditions, known as compassion fatigue. However, recent shifts are exacerbating the occupational hazards associated with working in healthcare. Some of these shifts include healthcare politics, changing reimbursement models, prior authorizations, more uninsured or underinsured patients, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The AHRQ’s Minimizing Error Maximizing Outcomes study reports that primary care physicians note the following as their most significant stress hazards:

  • Time pressures during patient examinations 
  • Chaotic environments
  • Lack of control of work pace
  • Acting as a buffer between the work environment and patient care

Provider burnout affects more than the providers themselves; the symptoms of burnout can lead to lower patient engagement and satisfaction, increased medical errors, greater risk of malpractice, and staff turnover. In fact, physicians experiencing burnout are more likely to leave their practice or the profession altogether.

Burnout: The Specialities and Demographics Most at Risk

Medscape surveyed over 15,000 physicians in 29 specialties to study the prevalence of burnout across demographic and practice areas. The report reveals urology, neurology, nephrology, diabetes & endocrinology, and family medicine as the specialties with the highest physician burnout rates. 

Generation X reports the highest burnout rates at 48%, compared with the Millennial generation’s rate of 38% and the Baby Boomer’s rate of 39%. Some of this disparity may be due to Generation X reaching the middle phase of their career, typically the highest time for burnout. Women have also consistently reported higher levels of burnout; 48% compared to 37% for men. The American Medical Association attributes female physician burnout to less work/life balance, gender biases, sexual harassment, and differing perspectives on workloads. Across both genders, physicians reported the following as the most significant contributors to burnout:

  1. Too many bureaucratic tasks
  2. Too many hours at work
  3. Lack of respect from administrators, employers, colleagues, or staff 

Technology Solutions to Mitigate Burnout 

Technology can be key contributors to help mitigate burnout. Specifically, solutions that make practicing medicine more efficient are often the most effective; therefore, to reduce burnout, focus on building efficiencies into your practice’s workflows. Practice management, electronic health records (EHR), and patient portal software all reduce administrative burdens. These tools simplify scheduling, billing, record access and collection, and patient communications. The ideal solution will integrate with your current workflows, seamless exchange data throughout your system, and automate daily administrative tasks. 

Burnout often becomes cyclical—physicians feel too exhausted to be productive and too stressed out by their lack of productivity. Software technology will make accessing patient information secure and easy, so you can make more informed decisions and achieve better outcomes, breaking the cycle of burnout. Plus, providing patients with easy access to their records, appointments, and follow up care plans will further reduce the need for direct physician and health team efforts.

The right software company will provide training and on-going support to help you achieve the best results from your new tools. Be sure to look for a company that regularly requests customer feedback in order to build new features and functionality enhancements. At RXNT, we’ve stayed true to our mission of helping providers deliver quality patient care. From our Full Suite of solutions to Practice Management and EHR software, you’ll find the ideal solution to empower and optimize your practice. Get a 100% virtual, free demo for a closer look. 

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