More than Pandemic Contributing to Physician Burnout

16 Feb, 2023 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While the pandemic certainly did put pressure on the healthcare industry, according to healthcare and life sciences expert James F. Jordan, the pandemic is only one element contributing to the physician mental health crisis and looming healthcare shortages. 

The pandemic caused a large amount of stress for individuals worldwide. In the process of dealing with the multitude of issues that the pandemic created, many people re-evaluated the things that were most important to them, resulting in a shift of priorities. In the case of healthcare providers, now that the pandemic emergency has passed, many physicians are still struggling to find joy in their jobs. 

Between June and October of last year, Medscape surveyed 9,175 physicians across 29 specialties on their lifestyles and habits, relationships, and fulfilment in their careers. In a comparison of before and after the pandemic, around 84 percent of physicians stated they were very happy outside of work prior to the pandemic, but only 58 percent stated they were currently very happy outside of the work environment. 

When it comes to happiness the workplace, the level of dissatisfaction is even more notable. Seventy-five percent stated they were happy at work prior to the pandemic, but only 48 percent stated that they were content at work currently. Additionally, 14 percent stated they were not happy at work prior to the pandemic but the level of current dissatisfaction has more than doubled at 36 percent. 

Women more commonly than men struggle to advance in the workplace in addition to having more responsibility as caretakers for their family. According to the Medscape survey, 49 percent of women but only 28 percent of men reported strong feelings of conflict in balancing parenting responsibilities with their jobs as physicians. According to a 2016 study, while physicians generally report a higher overall satisfaction level of their relationships with their children, family and work life balance is one of the strongest contributors to physician stress and burnout.  

In a phone interview with, Jordan believes the pandemic is only one contributor to the early retirement of physicians, and the chronic levels of burnout reported by those physicians that are remaining. Jordan contends that physicians are essentially finding themselves in the perfect storm, and while physicians groups and healthcare systems are attempting to address some issues, much of their efforts are reactive to the latest discoveries, resulting in slow changes and staying behind the curve.

Physicians already feel the pressure to do more in a shorter period of time compared to other professions. Jordan states, “Most professionals will start earning a decent income in their late 20’s. After factoring in education loans, physicians generally don’t start earning a decent income until they’re in their 30’s or sometimes even 40’s. Then they retire somewhere in their early 60’s, so they essentially have only 20 years to accomplish their goals for a career that they invested 8 to 10 years in education.”

Jordan goes on add that having a family can increase the pressures that providers feel. “By the time they finish medical school, many are at the age where they want to start a family. If they wait until they’re actually making some money, it’s more difficult to date in your forties than it is your twenties.” 

Additionally, physicians feel as though their hands are tied in that they are moving further away from the very reason they went to medical school. As an example Jordan states, “On average, physicians are now spending around 45 percent of their time on administrative duties, not seeing patients. Around 16 hours per week are spent on prior authorizations duties alone. I’ve talked to several physicians in my podcasts that say they went to medical school to treat patients, not sit behind a desk. They have invested all that time in medical school to treat patients and a large portion of their time is spent doing something else.”

According to a recent report, providers have seen a 67 percent increase in authorization denials. Additionally, Healthleaders reported last fall that 89 percent of providers have seen an increase in administrative burdens for prior authorizations. It would appear that while providers are investing more time in order to meet authorization requirements, they are not seeing the results they would expect nor any return in that investment. 

Using the manufacturing struggles from the 90’s as a comparison, Jordan states it took almost 20 years to see a change. Jordan states, “We have analytics that shows current issues, but we need advanced predictive analytics to show what needs addressed down the road, not just the current issue. At the end of the day, the real overall question is, ‘What can we do to help them manage what they’re doing?’”   

Jordan is a Service Professor of Health Care and Biotechnology at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, the President of StraTactic, the National Co-Chairman of the BIO Bootcamp, and the Founder of the Healthcare Data Center. An author as well an expert in healthcare business and analytics, you can find out more on his website

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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