For decades, medical journals have chronicled the high rate of burnout among physicians in our country. However, a recent study outlined on the AMN website shows that burnout rates among American physicians are now startlingly high at 45%. As a result, many physicians are developing a range of symptoms including compassion fatigue, depression, and exhaustion. In the scope of our changing healthcare system, it is good to know how this may affect you, whether the Affordable Care Act will have an impact for better or worse, and what can be done to help the people we count on to help us.
Analysts posit that as our healthcare system embarks on broad sweeping changes, many doctors are facing increased pressure, both financially and otherwise. Many are finding it difficult or impossible to take on new patients, due to already saturated workloads. Others are trying to accommodate new patients anyway, out of altruism or to ease financial strain, but as a result are forced to spend less time with each patient who visits them. This can make it difficult for patients to find new doctors, or to receive high quality, personalized care from the ones they have.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration are pointing to this problem as an example of why Obamacare won’t work. It is true that with increased access to care, many people will be seeking out healthcare that weren’t able to before. Even doctors who support the Act have cited concerns over being able to handle the increased influx of patients they can soon expect. Others have concerns over how healthcare reform will affect how doctors are reimbursed through insurance companies and social safety net programs as kinks in the system are ironed out.
However, scapegoating the act in a broad stroke would be inaccurate and unfair. As mentioned earlier, medical journals have been chronicling the burnout factor for decades, and many of the elements playing into the pressures physicians have recently faced have had nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, but rather new administrative technologies and keeping their heads above water in the midst of our financial crisis. In fact, a page on the Healthcare.gov website lists, among a range of provisions and benefits, several provisions in place intended to increase the medical workforce and to provide support for doctors and hospitals in need. From these factors, it seems apparent that the drafters of the act were aware that transitioning into healthcare reform would not be without problems for the healthcare providers, and that they had at least considered solutions that would work to everyone’s benefit.
Are you a healthcare professional experiencing burnout, or do you know someone who is? Do you blame the Affordable Care Act, or previous factors? Do you think impending healthcare reform could make things easier, or worse? Please share your thoughts, input, and experiences in our comments.