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Administrative Burden Remains Top Challenge for Physicians

Administrative burden remains a top challenge to physician satisfaction according to recent findings published by AMA.

Physician burnout from administrative burden

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Administrative burden, stress, and lack of time made up the top-three challenges facing respondents a survey on physician satisfaction which the American Medical Association (AMA) conducted last month.

Despite these and other challenges — long hours and on-call schedules were top challenges for resident respondents — physicians are overwhelmingly satisfied with their career choice.

“Physicians may be discouraged at times, but almost every single one of us remains confident in our decision to enter medicine and continues to be driven by our desire to help our patients,” said AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD. “As an organization, the AMA is constantly striving to deliver resources that empower physicians to maximize time with their patients and help them succeed at every stage of their medical lives. Understanding the challenges physicians face, as well as their motivations for continuing on, is critical to fulfilling that mission.”

AMA surveyed 1,200 physicians, residents, and medical students about their motivations for becoming physicians, influences on their career choice, professional challenges, and satisfaction with their career choice.

According to the responses, only one in ten physicians is dissatisfied with career choice, taking into account challenges throughout the various stages of their careers. An estimated 75 percent of medical students, residents, and physicians identified helping people as the top motivator for choosing the medical profession, and 61 percent would recommend a medical career to others.

Administrative burden reared its head as a key contributor to physician dissatisfaction earlier this week when a collection of healthcare CEOs called the industry’s attention to physician burnout as a public health crisis on Health Affairs Blog.

“The high level of burnout among physicians should be considered an early warning sign of dysfunction in our health care system,” they wrote. “Professional satisfaction for physicians is primarily driven by the ability to provide high-quality care to patients in an efficient manner. Dissatisfaction is driven by factors that impede this effort, including administrative and regulatory burdens, limitations of current technology, an inefficient practice environment, excessive clerical work, and conflicting payer requirements. High levels of physician burnout can thus be seen as an indicator of poor performance by the underlying system and environment.”

Specifically, the CEOs of AMA, Partners HealthCare, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Atrius Health, and other organizations identified EHR technology a major pain point.

“While EHRs are evolving in a meaningful way in some institutions, the pace of enhancement must accelerate across the board,” they maintained. “Health care delivery organizations, organized medicine, payers and other interested parties need to work with EHR vendors to improve their product offerings, which could reduce EHRs burden on physicians.”

The authors of the blog post encouraged healthcare CEOs to work with AMA to improve EHR technology. “Encourage and support the AMA and other national organizations to work with regulators and technology vendors to align technology and policy with advanced models of team-based care and to reduce the burden of the EHR on all users,” they recommended.

AMA was also the lead subscriber of a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verna call for changes to the EHR Incentive Programs, Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), and Value Modifier (VM) as well as a reduction of physicians quality reporting requirements for physicians under the 21st Century Cures Act:

To fulfill this legislative directive, we urge CMS to establish a new “Administrative Burden” category of hardship exemption for the 2016 MU performance year. Eligible providers should not be penalized for focusing on providing quality patient care rather than the arbitrary “check the box” requirements of MU. Creating an administrative burden hardship exemption would provide immediate relief for those impacted by the programs that predate MACRA.

Fortunately, physicians, residents, and medical students are highly satisfied with their careers despite continued debate over the effects of regulation and policy at the federal level.

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