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Frustrated by bureaucracy of modern medicine, 1 in 5 physicians wants to reduce clinical hours

December 04, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Medical School Physician Workforce 


Nearly one in five U.S. physicians intends to reduce clinical work hours in the next year, and roughly one in 50 intends to leave medicine altogether in the next two years to pursue a different career. If physicians follow through on these intentions, it could profoundly worsen the projected physician shortage in the U.S. This was the alarming conclusion of new research by experts at the American Medical Association (AMA), Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.

The research, published in the November 2017 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 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.

Attrition in the physician workforce results in diminished access to care for patients. If just 30 percent 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 health care 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.”

To help physicians succeed in their life's work of caring for patients, the California Medical Association (CMA) and AMA have made physician wellness and the prevention of burnout a core priority. The CMA Board of Trustees earlier this year established a new subcommittee on physician wellness, which will explore strategies and resources to address issues of professional burnout in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

“The wellbeing of the nation’s physicians, clearly being harmed by factors causing burnout, is a critical factor in maintaining access to care and the quality of our health care system,” says CMA President Theodore Mazer, M.D. “CMA is committed to helping physicians and their practices conquer these issues, so they may do what they do best, treat patients.”

By advancing initiatives that enhance efficiency, professional satisfaction and the delivery of care, CMA is striving to help physicians navigate and succeed in a continually evolving health care environment. Throughout the month of December, CMA will be highlighting this critical issue and innovative approaches to solving the problem of physician burnout.

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