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Physicians besieged by 'burnout,' pessimistic view of profession, Physicians Foundation study says

Survey finds 49 percent say they "often or always" experience feelings of burnout, would not recommend a career in medicine to their children.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

A growing number of physicians are laboring under intense feelings of burnout, and most say they're overextended or at capacity, according to a new survey conducted by The Physicians Foundation.

The findings suggest a struggle among physicians to maintain their level of morale and adapt to changing delivery and payment models.

Among those surveyed, 49 percent say they "often or always" experience feelings of burnout, and the same percentage said they would not recommend a career in medicine to their children. Fifty-four percent rate their morale as somewhat or very negative, and 48 percent plan to cut back on their hours, retire, take a non-clinical job or switch to concierge medicine. Eighty percent said they were overextended and didn't have time to see additional patients.

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[Also: Bulk of doctors say healthcare is failing to stem physician burnout, survey says]

The Physicians Group attributes these results to a number of new or ongoing events taking place within the healthcare industry, including a persistent physician shortage, which the Association of American Medical Colleges said will create a deficit of more than 90,000 physicians by 2025.

The "corporatization" of healthcare, including more than $400 billion in merger activity in 2015 and about 100 hospital/health system consolidations, was another factor cited by the Physicians Group. Others include MACRA, which will revamp how physicians are paid by Medicare, and the implementation of ICD-10, which raised the number of disease classification codes from 14,000 to 68,000.

The survey also found that a meager 37 percent of physicians describe their feelings about the future of the medical profession as positive; physicians spend 21 percent of their time on non-clinical paperwork; and 43 percent have their compensation tied to quality or value. Seventy-two percent indicated that external factors, such as third-party authorizations, significantly distracted from the quality of care they're able to provide.

[Also: Majority of physicians experience burnout, extreme frustration with stacks of paperwork]

According to the group, the concern from the public's perspective is that physicians, due to poor morale or related reasons, will choose to practice medicine in ways that reduce patient access to services, whether it be by retiring, pursuing non-clinical roles or otherwise altering their practice styles.

The survey also indicates that the majority of physicians don't have their compensation directly tied to quality metrics, or are unaware if they do, and most are unfamiliar with MACRA. Most don't believe accountable care organizations will achieve quality enhancement and cost reduction, and most said electronic health records detract from efficiency and patient interaction.

Twitter: @JELagasse