Electronic Records Biggest Cause of Physician Burnout

Physician burnout is real but getting better, according to a new report from Mayo Clinic Proceedings.  Between October 12, 2017, and March 15, 2018, researchers at Mayo and Stanford University surveyed US physicians and a probability-based sample of the US working population (methods were similar to previous 2011 and 2014 studies).

More than 30,000 physicians were invited to participate, a total of 5197 (17.1%) completed the surveys. Burnout among physicians was measured using the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scales of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). In general, burnout typically includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, distress and depression. Researchers considered physicians with a high score on the depersonalization and/or emotional exhaustion subscale of the MBI  as having at least one manifestation of professional burnout.

The results showed that 45% of physicians experienced at least one manifestation of professional burnout during the time period. The study showed that problems with work-life-integration (WLI) were more common in physicians than in workers in other fields, even after adjusting for educational level, hours worked, and other factors.

Respondents said the primary causes of burnout were the demands of updating electronic health records because they limit the time spent with patients.

Overall the data show that burnout is decreasing since 2011. The highest levels of burnout are in emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine and neurology. Work-life balance was the lowest among OB/GYN, internal medicine and some surgical specialists (see the chart below).

The researchers say individual and organizational efforts have improved the situation, but more work needs to be done.“This is good news. It shows that burnout is being addressed nationally and programs are having some impact,” says Lotte Dyrbye, M.D., Mayo Clinic researcher and senior author of the paper. “Clearly more organizational change and more research is needed to sustain this trajectory.”

Percentage Reporting Burnout and Work-Life Satisfaction

Source: Shanafelt, Tait D. et al. Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Integration in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2017, Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 0 , Issue 0. doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.10.023