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WMJ Vol. 117 No. 5: Special Report

Physician Burnout in Wisconsin: An Alarming Trend Affecting Physician Wellness

Anne Hauer, BA; H.J. Waukau, MPA; Peter Welch, MA



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Wisconsin physicians are experiencing burnout at levels that surpass national benchmarks. The Wisconsin Medical Society (Society), in conjunction with the American Medical Association (AMA), conducted a survey of 1,165 Wisconsin physicians to assess burnout and its contributing factors. The results indicate that primary causes of physician burnout include utilization and interactions with electronic health records (EHR), lack of a supportive practice environment, the loss of autonomy, and poor work/ life balance. Addressing physician burnout in Wisconsin calls for significant efforts by all relevant stakeholders, including insurers, government entities, health care systems and their executive leadership, and physicians themselves, and will require improving physician interactions with the EHR, increasing the physician role in administrative decision-making, and maintaining the focus of health care on the patient.

To lessen the impact of the key factors that lead to physician burnout, the Society plans to convene stakeholders to improve EHR functionality, develop and encourage physician leadership opportunities, create a Center for Physician Empowerment to unite stakeholders to lead systemic change through collective education and action, and pursue legislation to establish a Physician Health Program through the state government structure.

Author Affiliations: Wisconsin Medical Society, Madison, Wis.

Corresponding Author: Anne Hauer, Wisconsin Medical Society, 330 E Lakeside St, Madison, WI 53715; phone 608.442.3800; email anne.hauer@wismed.org.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their support and assistance with this paper: Clyde “Bud” Chumbley, MD, MBA, Laura Jacobs, Kendi Parvin, John Rather, JD, and The Wisconsin Medical Society Physician Experience Task Force: John Beasley, MD, Catherine Lee, MD, Randall Levin, MD, Michal McGrail, MD, Jose Ortiz, MD, Douglas Reding, MD, MPH, FACP, Peter Sanderson, MD, Heather Schmidt, DO, Alpa Shah, MD, and Gregory Thompson, MD.

Financial Disclosures: None declared.

Funding/Support: Funding for the AMA mini-Z survey was provided in part by a grant to the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation from the Physicians Foundation.