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athenahealth Physician Sentiment Index Highlights Healthcare Provider Pain Points

  • Physician burnout and administrative burden are provider organizations’ biggest pain points October to December 2020

athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for medical groups and health systems nationwide, shared insights from its new Physician Sentiment Index. The survey was fielded between October 13, 2020 and December 23, 2020 to a broad sampling of physicians using a variety of EHR vendors – and was conducted to understand how physicians feel about the resources and support they receive to do their job in an effort to better identify and address opportunities to fortify our essential healthcare workers.

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“a few times a year or less”

Physician Burnout

A surprising finding from the survey showed that 61% of physicians felt their practices have not taken any concrete steps in the last 12 months to mitigate physician burnout.

Particularly during a pandemic, provider organizations may benefit from developing proactive strategies to reduce physician stress and dissatisfaction. Physicians experiencing burnout are more likely than their peers to reduce their work hours or exit their profession, and the data shows that physicians who felt burned out every day were half as likely to believe they would still be with their current organization in three years, compared with physicians who never felt burned out.

  • Women are more burned out: Of the women physicians in the survey, 32% reported feeling burned out once per week or more compared to 26% of male physicians. Women also report spending more time working at home outside of normal hours – 19% of their work time as compared to just 14% for men.
  • Older physicians experience burnout less frequently: The survey found that older physicians (65 and above) were burned out less frequently (with 52% responding “never” or “a few times a year or less”) than their younger counterparts (37%) under 65.
  • Physicians from Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) saw higher rates of burnout: More FQHC physicians (55%) feel burned out compared to those at independent practices (44%). Additionally, physicians at FQHCs were less likely to describe their workload as manageable (42% at FQHCs agree or strongly agree vs. 60% at independent practices).

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Administrative Burden

The survey data suggests administrative work may be a significant pain point for provider organizations, with physicians reporting an average of 13.5 hours per week on tasks other than direct patient care. Nearly half (47%) of all physicians surveyed reported feeling rushed and unable to spend enough time with each patient at least once a week. Additionally, only about a third (29%) of physicians felt their organization is set up well to minimize administrative tasks.

Findings around after-hours work told a similar story. Physicians reported spending an average of 8 hours per week after hours, likely catching up on administrative “homework”. Compared with physicians who reported spending 2 hours per week or less after-hours, those spending 5 or more were nearly twice as likely to report feeling rushed with patients more than once per week (25% vs. 43%).

“Burnout continues to affect a troublingly large swath of the physician population. The burden appears to be greater for female physicians, and for physicians who treat underserved populations,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research and editorial strategy at athenahealth. “Healthcare leaders should be concerned about this ongoing issue at an individual level—for the wellbeing of their colleagues—as well as at a systemic level. The past year has reinforced how critical these front-line physicians are to the health of their communities, and therefore we must create an environment that allows these caregivers to remain and thrive in the profession.”

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