InCrowd study shows a 79% burnout level among PCPs, and 68% across all specialties, spotlighting a national problem

New report details the state of the US physicians under pressure, rebutting a report of declines among PCPs; only 25% say their facilities are effective in combating burnout

WATERTOWN, MA August 6, 2019—Sixty-eight percent of US-based physicians surveyed reported experiencing burnout at some level, according to a new study by InCrowd, life science market pioneer and innovator of real-time market insights. The survey of US-based primary care (PCPs) physicians and specialists, performed in early June 2019, documents an aggregate burnout level across multiple specialties that is higher than the 43-54% range found in MedScape’s 2019 national report yet lower than the 80% of The Physicians Foundation/Merritt Hawkins biennial survey of September 2018. With PCPs, however, InCrowd found nearly 80% burnout levels—dramatically higher than the 43.9% cited in an American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) study of March 2019, which itself reflected a decline from 54.4% in 2014. Only 25% of InCrowd respondents felt their facilities were effectively addressing burnout. 

InCrowd has been following the trend of physician burnout over the years and this year’s InCrowd survey details the seemingly intractable issues across different practice settings and demographic groups. Key findings from the research include:

  • PCPs report higher burnout rates than specialists, with 79% of PCPs personally experiencing burnout compared with 57% of specialists. Of the 23% who said that specialty plays a large role in burnout, respondents were split as to whether PCPs vs. specialists were more affected. 
  • Burnout is highest among younger physicians, with those in their 30s and 40s reporting highest rates of burnout (74%), and burnout rates dropping thereafter.
  • More than one-third (34%) of physicians would not recommend the profession to young family members, with 32% citing that it’s not worth the sacrifices, financial, emotional, and otherwise. “It would be hard to see someone you care about go through the stress of medical school, residency, and fellowship knowing that they will face pressure to see as many patients as possible, EMR stress, administrative duties, etc. all while being reimbursed less and less with time,” said a specialist in a group practice.
  • Hospital employees report slightly worse metrics for addressing burnout (20% effective) compared to those who work across private practices (27% effective).
  • As for what’s working, those who report that their facilities effectively address burnout credit workplace initiatives that improve workflow (46%), provide schedule flexibility (45%), and support wellness (41%).
  • When asked what actions their facilities could take to alleviate the issue of physician burnout, over half of respondents report that increased support staffing (66%), mandatory vacation time or half-days (57%), and reduced patient volume (56%) are likely to help.
  • In verbatim suggestions for fixes to the burnout issue 51% focused on addressing the administrative burden. Ideas included the use of scribes for dealing with electronic medical records and providing admin time—40 mins per day and one half-day per week. “We need to decrease documentation requirements from government and private insurers,” said a PCP from Utah. “The same groups need to stop impeding patient care through all of the prior authorizations requested,” said a PCP from Utah.
    “We need to i
    ncrease not just staffing but training to have that staff do non-clinical work that is falling on doctors. Scribes could be included in this,” said an internal medicine specialist from Delaware.

“The alarming persistence of physician burnout over the years and across multiple studies unfortunately demonstrates that we have not yet turned the tide on this problematic issue,” said Diane Hayes, PhD., co-founder and president of InCrowd. “Since we last looked at this in 2016, there really haven’t been any notable improvements. The healthcare industry would benefit from refining and expanding current initiatives to assure adequate staffing levels needed to deliver the quality care patients deserve.”

This physician survey used InCrowd a five-minute, four-question InCrowd MicroSurvey to gather perceptions from 612 US-based physicians—320 PCPs and 319 specialists, with 657 total US-based physicians screened for the report and 639 that screened in for topic-related questions. Fifty-six percent of respondents were women and 43% men, with the average age of 43 and an average of 12 years in practice. InCrowd’s data was captured on June 6-7, 2019.