HCN News & Notes

Research Finds 1 in 5 Physicians Ready to Reduce Clinical Work Hours

CHICAGO — The burden and bureaucracy of modern medicine inflict a toll on U.S. physicians and appear to be major factors influencing physicians’ intentions to reduce clinical work hours or leave the profession, according to new research by experts at the American Medical Association (AMA), Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.

The research study calls for a comprehensive approach by national policymakers and health care delivery institutions to address the challenge.

Published in today’s new issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the research shows roughly one in five physicians intend to reduce clinical work hours in the next year. Meanwhile, roughly one in 50 physicians intend to leave medicine for a different career in the next two years.

The research sheds light on a troubling correlation between the career plans of U.S. physicians and the growing problem of burnout, technology dissatisfaction and administrative fatigue among physicians. Physicians who were burned out, dissatisfied with work-life integration, and dissatisfied with electronic health records (EHRs) were more likely to intend to reduce clinical work in the next 12 months. Burnout is the largest factor influencing physicians who intend to leave medicine in the next two years.

“An energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce is essential to achieving national health goals. Yet burnout is more common among physicians than other U.S. workers, and that gap is increasing as mounting obstacles to patients care contribute to emotional fatigue, depersonalization and loss of enthusiasm among physicians,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D., M.H.A. “The AMA is urging Congress, hospitals, and health plans to recognize the coming crisis as an early warning sign of health system dysfunction. America’s physicians are the canary in the coal mine.”

Attrition in the physician workforce results in diminished access to care for patients. If just 30{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of physicians follow through on their intention to leave medicine in the next two years, the study estimates approximately 4,759 physicians would leave the workforce — a loss roughly equivalent to eliminating the graduating classes of 19 U.S. medical schools in each of the next two years.

“Our findings have profound implications for healthcare organizations,” notes the study. “Replacing physicians is costly to institutions with one recent analysis suggesting costs of $800,000 or more per physician. In addition, turnover is disruptive to patients, staff, and organizational culture.”