Physician Burnout and the Quadruple Aim

Administrative burdens are strangling medical practice and creating unnecessary and costly inefficiencies in health care delivery.

Research indicates that now more than ever, administrative and other burdens are leaving physicians struggling to find joy and meaning in their work, leading to increased risk of serious physical and psychological harm, threats to patient safety and an increasing number of doctors leaving practice.

Dissatisfaction and burnout

A recent study shows physicians' professional dissatisfaction rising dramatically over the last three years, with more than half of U.S. physicians now experiencing professional burnout.

The study compares responses from two surveys of physicians from across all specialties and practice types, conducted three years apart. Key findings include:


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    54 percent of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout in 2014, compared with 45 percent in 2011.
  • Burnout was higher in 2014 across all specialties when compared with 2011. Many specialties indicated an increase of well over 10 percent during the three-year period.
  • Physician satisfaction with work-life balance declined between 2011 and 2014 (48 vs. 41 percent).
  • Only 41 percent said their schedules left sufficient time for personal and family life.

The study's authors conclude that drivers of professional burnout in the practice setting, including inefficiencies and administrative burdens, must be addressed for successful intervention and underscores the importance of drawing attention to the Quadruple Aim in health care.

Introducing the Quadruple Aim

Physicians are familiar with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Triple Aim, which seeks to optimize health system performance by improving care quality and population health while lowering costs. As the study results above illustrate, a fourth component is needed to address the quality of life and work of health care clinicians.

Healthy Doctors, Healthier Patients will embrace this "Quadruple Aim" by exploring legislative, regulatory and market-based solutions to administrative burden. This effort will also look at wellness programs and highlight key WSMA resources aimed at keeping physicians in the workforce as engaged, caring providers who have rich professional and personal lives.