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May 18, 2011

Physician Burnout: A Potential Threat to Successful Health Care Reform

JAMA. 2011;305(19):2009-2010. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.652

Discussions of barriers to successful implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have largely focused on legislative, logistic, and legal hurdles. Notably absent from these discussions is how the health care reform measures may affect the emotional health of physicians.

Burnout is common among physicians in the United States, with an estimated 30% to 40% experiencing burnout.1 Many aspects of patient care may be compromised by burnout. Physicians who have burnout are more likely to report making recent medical errors, score lower on instruments measuring empathy, and plan to retire early and have higher job dissatisfaction, which has been associated with reduced patient satisfaction with medical care and patient adherence to treatment plans.1-4