Nearly two-thirds of doctors are burned out, depressed, or both. That’s the finding of a new study that shows many physicians are just going through the motions when it comes to patient care.
The study is called the Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression. It includes anonymous surveys from over 15,000 doctors across America.1
The study found:
- 42% of physicians reported burnout
- 15% reported depression
- 14% reported burnout and depression
Burnout was defined as feelings of “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, frustration or cynicism about work, and doubts about one’s experience and the value of one’s work.”2
The highest rates of burnout were found among family physicians, internists, critical care physicians, neurologists, and ob-gyns. Lowest rates were among plastic surgeons, dermatologists, pathologists, and ophthalmologists.
Burnout rates were 48% for female doctors and 38% for male doctors.
Age was also a factor. Middle-aged doctors suffer the most burnout. Those under 45 had a burnout rate of 35%. For ages 45-54, it was 50%. For doctors 55-69, the rate was 41%.
The study noted that previous research has shown a direct relationship between physician burnout and lower levels of patient safety and quality of care.3
Alarmingly, 20% of doctors in the survey said they turn to alcohol to cope with burnout.
Signs Your Doctor Is Burned Out
Is it any wonder that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S.?
Doctor foul-ups lead to more deaths than Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, suicide, and car accidents combined.4
And even when doctor mistakes don’t lead to death, they cause untold pain and suffering.
Look for these signs that your doctor is suffering from burnout:
Lack of attention to your situation. During appointments, does your doctor show active interest in your case? Does he patiently listen to you? Does he answer all of your questions?
Does he dismiss your complaints due to age? A doctor should never chalk up ills to “old age” without giving you a real diagnosis. This is a sign he is stumped and doesn’t have the time or energy to fully investigate your problem.
Is he overbooked? Do you sit in the waiting room for long periods of time? Does he rush you through appointments? Doctors who stretch themselves too thin are more likely to suffer burnout.
5 Steps to Finding a Great Doctor
When you decide it’s time to find a new doctor, a little homework can help you find a quality physician.
Ask a nurse
If you know any healthcare professionals, ask them who their doctors are. The opinion of hospital nurses can be especially valuable. They interact with a large number of doctors at many different practices.
Use online search tools
The best place to find a list of doctors closest to you is the American Medical Association’s DoctorFinder database. It lists basic information for virtually every licensed physician in the U.S. You can search by location, specialty, or the doctor’s name.
Another great online tool is Re-Find Health. It’s a nationwide directory of holistic doctors who believe in natural healing methods.
Ignore ‘Top Doctor’ awards
You may have seen ads from doctors who say they’ve been named a “Top Doctor” by some organization. These awards are often a scam. Doctors pay for them. The doctor doesn’t have to meet any performance standard. He just has to write a check to the company or publication providing him the award.5
There are many doctor review sites. But we recommend HealthGrades. It has more reviews than any other site. And it contains other useful information, including doctors’ hospital affiliations, insurance accepted, specialties, board certifications, and any disciplinary actions taken against the doctor.
HealthGrades is easy to navigate. Simply type in the name of the doctor to get reviews and other information. The site is free.
Check for Big Pharma payoffs
A disturbing study last year found that 65% of doctors received payments or gifts in the previous year from drug and/or medical device manufacturers.6
These payments have a clear influence on how doctors treat their patients. Doctors taking payments are more than three times as likely to prescribe the medications sold by the company paying them, the study found.7
ProPublica is a nonprofit journalism organization. It tracks drug company payments to doctors. Go to the group’s Dollars for Docs site and type in a doctor’s name and the state in which he or she practices.
You’ll instantly see if they’re on Big Pharma’s payroll.
One more thing…
Before you get a new doctor, ask how many patients he has. The receptionist may have this information.
They may refuse to disclose this information. But it’s worth asking. Less than 2,000 is best. Anything over 2,300 is a red flag that the doctor may be stretched too thin.