Physician burnout – desperate solutions needed

Burnout rates are now twice as high in medicine as in other fields, even after adjustment for factors such as age, sex, level of education, and hours worked in the past week. In 2014, a national survey found that 54% of U.S. physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout.

Increasing clerical burden is one of the biggest drivers of burnout in medicine. Time-motion studies show that for every hour physicians spend with patients, they spend one to two more hours finishing notes, documenting phone calls, ordering tests, reviewing results, responding to patient requests, prescribing medications, and communicating with staff.

Improvements will first require investments from senior administration in academic medical centers and individual practices to recognize and measure the extent of the problem. Then, the resulting data will have to inform shifts in policy and culture to address a system that remains broken for many, and to allow for creative and flexible solutions that promote physician well-being.