The growing burden, and cost, of physician burnout has received recognition by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has made the decision to update the definition of burnout in its new handbook of diseases, the International Classification of Diseases — ICD-11,and will take effect in 2022.
The updated definition of burnout, according to the WHO, is defined by a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and is characterized by:
• feeling depleted of energy or exhausted;
• feeling mentally distanced from or cynical about one's job; and
• problems getting one's job done successfully.
Ironically enough, studies consistently show that healthcare in the U.S. has one of the highest burnout rates, recently reporting 77.8% of respondents reporting having feelings of professional burnout either sometimes, often or always—up from 74% in 2016, according to a report published in the Physicians Foundation’s “2018 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives.”
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that physician burnout can cost as much as $11,000 per physician, with each employed physician averaging about $7,600 in annual cost associated with burnout related to turnover and reduced clinical hours. On a national level, physician burnout costs the healthcare industry in the U.S. between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion each year, calculating a baseline of about $4.6 billion in costs from turnover, reduced productivity and other burnout-related factors.
Clinician advocates worry that burnout will only get worse and increase in the years to come, with a growing senior patient population as well as a doctor shortage expected to reach more than 121,000 by 2030.
The studies results vary but show startling numbers nonetheless. However, according to an American Medical Association study, 44% of U.S. physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout in 2017, down from 2014's peak of 54% and shows that it seems to affect some doctors more than others, as well as evidence showing female physicians more likely to suffer from burnout, along with caregivers at larger and hospital-affiliated practices.