The battle against COVID-19 has showcased remarkable progress globally, yet it has also cast a spotlight on the increasing stress, workforce shortages, and the resultant burnout that are pushing many physicians to leave their professions prematurely.

Last year alone, 40% of medical practices witnessed physicians either resigning or retiring early due to burnout. More alarmingly, over a third of these professionals considered hanging up their white coats for good, driven by overwhelming stress and fatigue.

To combat this, the MGMA report advises healthcare organizations to enhance their offerings. This includes providing better clinical support, more flexible working conditions and increased paid leave to help ease the strain on medical providers.

Programs focused on retaining physicians have shown their worth by keeping doctors engaged and curbing staff turnover. However, organizations that neglect this critical area risk losing their medical professionals. Although administrators are recognizing the deepening issue of physician burnout, many doctors feel that not enough is being done to address it or to actively involve them in solutions.

This article dives deep into the trends of physician burnout, exploring its causes and examining how credentialing plays a pivotal role in this ongoing issue.

The Roots of Provider Burnout

The issue of physician burnout is deep-seated, with doctors facing a continuous build-up of stress and feeling increasingly detached due to the mounting pressures within the medical field. This has been an alarming trend over the past decade, affecting approximately half of all physicians. The Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that during the first two years of the pandemic, the rate of burnout soared to more than 60%.

Certain medical specialties, including emergency medicine, urology, anesthesiology, and various surgical and internal medicine subspecialties, are particularly prone to high burnout rates, according to StatPearls. This widespread burnout not only affects healthcare providers but also leads to nearly $1 billion annually in excess healthcare costs due to primary care physician turnover, as reported by Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

To tackle these issues, the American Medical Association has introduced strategies like the one from Hawaii Pacific Health, which identified and eliminated over 300 inefficient or unnecessary activities from electronic health records. These initiatives aim to remove trivial tasks from doctors' daily routines, allowing them to concentrate more on patient care rather than administrative duties. The push towards automation and streamlining workflows within medical practices is seen as a crucial step in this direction.

Healthcare organizations are encouraged to minimize the time doctors spend in meetings and to ensure that interactions between physicians and administrators are direct, meaningful, and responsive to doctors' concerns. Engaging physicians in the decision-making process and valuing their feedback are essential steps toward addressing their frustrations.

Amidst a national shortage of healthcare providers, there's a growing emphasis on leveraging health technology to maximize physicians' efficiency and minimize the administrative load they carry. For instance, primary care physicians reportedly lose an average of two hours per day to administrative tasks.

However, the process of provider credentialing remains painfully outdated and complicated. This critical function, which ensures patient safety, involves extensive paperwork, constant follow-ups for signatures, and endless verification calls. Each credentialing step is not only repeated for every related healthcare entity but also every few years, creating a relentless cycle of administrative burden.

Burnout and Depression Among Hospitalists

Burnout and depression continue to challenge the medical profession, posing significant risks, especially for hospitalists who manage the high stresses of full-time patient care in hospitals. Recent surveys, including one by Medscape, have explored how hospitalists are managing their work-life balance and the extent to which their employers are addressing the risks associated with burnout and depression.

Although reports from 2024 indicate that hospitalists are reporting cases of depression and burnout slightly less frequently than in the previous year, which marked the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Heather Farley, a chief wellness officer at ChristianaCare in Delaware, warns that it’s premature to be overly optimistic. New pressures, especially financial ones, are pushing health systems to demand more from less staff, exacerbating stress levels among medical professionals.

Historically, female hospitalists have reported higher burnout rates than their male colleagues, a trend consistent across the medical field since at least 2018. This gap appeared to narrow in the latest findings, yet workplace dynamics like pay disparities and varying support levels, alongside external pressures like childcare and caregiving for elderly relatives, significantly contribute to stress.

Both male and female hospitalists attribute their job as the primary or significant contributor to their feelings of burnout and depression, at rates of 77% and 75% respectively. This sentiment is echoed widely, with 83% of physicians across various specialties reporting similar feelings.

Interestingly, the number of hospitalists feeling burned out for at least two years has increased from last year’s survey, highlighting that many underlying issues in the workplace precede even the pandemic. The bureaucratic load is often cited, with over half pointing to administrative duties as a key stressor.

There is a concerted effort within some health systems to cut down on needless administrative tasks, yet the challenge remains substantial at the granular level within hospital units. The potential of AI to streamline workflows and enable physicians to utilize their full capabilities more effectively is being discussed as a crucial next step.

Despite these initiatives, nearly half of the doctors, including 46% of hospitalists, feel that their employers are not adequately addressing burnout. This sentiment is gradually changing, though, as healthcare executives recognize that enhancing physician well-being is not just beneficial but essential for high-quality patient care, reduced staff turnover, and better overall healthcare outcomes.

Mental Health Stigma Among Physicians

For years, healthcare institutions have required doctors to disclose previous mental health treatments and substance use as part of the process to secure hospital privileges and insurance credentials. Such inquiries are widely believed to deter physicians from seeking the mental health care they might urgently need, a suspicion that recent national surveys have confirmed.

Last year, more than 40% of physicians admitted they avoided seeking necessary treatment for depression or burnout, fearing repercussions if their employers or licensing boards found out. Thankfully, the landscape is shifting. States like Massachusetts have started removing such invasive questions from their licensing procedures, setting a trend that others are beginning to follow.

The reality is that many physicians feel vulnerable about seeking help. They worry about appearing weak or incapable. Society often expects doctors to be omniscient, omnipresent, and perpetually composed, forgetting that doctors, too, are human and susceptible to the same ailments as anyone else.

Moreover, the threat of malpractice suits looms large. Physicians fear that any disclosure of mental health issues could be used against them in court, jeopardizing their careers.

Despite the potential benefits of treatments like antidepressants, many doctors hesitate to use them, concerned that their medical records could become public in the event of legal proceedings. This pervasive stigma complicates their willingness to seek help, leaving many to suffer in silence.

Combating Burnout Through Improved Credentialing

One consistent reason for physician burnout, highlighted repeatedly in surveys, is the overwhelming number of administrative tasks doctors face daily.

The American Medical Association has pointed out that many doctors spend over half their working hours on non-medical tasks, despite the extensive 11 to 14 years spent training to become physicians. According to a Medscape report, 74% of physicians spend at least ten hours per week on administrative duties alone, with 36% of them spending over 20 hours.

While healthcare continues to advance rapidly, embracing technologies like genome sequencing, insulin pumps, and precision medicine, the process of physician credentialing remains surprisingly outdated. Today's credentialing systems often rely on antiquated tools like Excel spreadsheets, sticky notes, and bulky filing cabinets, which are not only inefficient but prone to human error. These errors can lead to missing data, delayed information delivery, and ultimately, delays in patient care. This process isn't just slow and error-prone—it's also costly, with practices spending an average of $7,000 and 20 administrative hours per physician credentialing application.

The financial implications are significant. New hires may not start working for months, leading to substantial revenue losses for medical practices. Just one expired certificate or missing document can delay care delivery, affecting both patient care and the financial health of the practice. Furthermore, if credentialing lapses, physicians cannot legally practice or be compensated, impacting their earning potential and the practice's bottom line.

Thankfully, cloud-based credentialing technologies offer a solution. These systems use real-time, primary-sourced data, which can be centralized and automated to streamline the verification process. This not only makes credentialing quicker and more accurate but also secures the data, eliminating the chaos of outdated methods. With these technologies, there are no more lost post-it notes, unfilled positions, or unnecessary delays—just a smoother, more efficient credentialing process that helps keep both physicians and patients moving forward without needless administrative burdens.

Streamlining Credentialing to Empower Physicians and Staff

Recruiting physicians is highly competitive, with healthcare organizations everywhere striving to attract the best from a common pool of talent. Offering a unique or improved credentialing experience can set an organization apart and make it more attractive to potential hires.

The volume of information required for physician credentialing can be overwhelming, often necessitating submission to multiple entities. This cumbersome process can lead to information gaps, and errors, and even deter potential candidates.

Automating the credentialing system can dramatically simplify this process. By pulling data directly from primary sources like state licensing boards, a physician's profile can be efficiently created and shared across health system locations. What traditionally took hours to compile can now be completed in just 15-20 minutes, allowing physicians to quickly verify and supplement their data as needed.

Once on board, physicians are spared the hassle of repeatedly filling out the same paperwork whenever they transition within the health system. Integrated credentialing solutions leverage real-time data from state boards, the DEA, the AMA, and other authorities to continuously update a provider’s credentials. This proactive approach notifies staff of impending license expirations, disciplinary actions, or any critical updates needed to maintain compliance and ensure smooth operation.

Such systems not only mitigate the risk of administrative errors but also enhance the operational transparency of healthcare practices. By automating and centralizing the credentialing process, these solutions minimize paperwork, reduce costs, and allow healthcare professionals to focus on what they do best—caring for patients. This streamlined approach ensures that physicians can start their roles sooner and without the bureaucratic delays that can frustrate and impede their practice and patient care.

Preparing Your Healthcare Operation for the Digital Transition

Transitioning to cloud-based medical credentialing software offers numerous benefits to healthcare operations but also presents its own set of challenges. To ensure a smooth transition and capitalize on these benefits, it's essential to prepare meticulously using the following strategies:

  • Evaluate Your Current System: Begin by thoroughly assessing your existing credentialing processes. Identify what's working well and what isn't. This initial evaluation will help you set clear objectives for adopting the new digital system and understand how it can resolve current issues and enhance your operations.

  • Choose the Right Vendor: Carefully research and compare different cloud-based credentialing software providers. It’s important to select a vendor that aligns with your specific needs and organizational goals. Assess each vendor’s reputation, user reviews, and overall experience to ensure credibility and reliability.

  • Plan the Implementation: Dedicate sufficient time and resources to the digital transition. Before launching the new system, conduct thorough testing to confirm that the software meets all your operational requirements and functions correctly.

  • Educate Your Team: Ensure that all relevant staff are well-informed about how to use the new software and understand any changes to the credentialing process. Proper training is crucial to enable your team to fully leverage the software’s features and ensure a seamless transition.

  • Monitor and Adjust: Continuously monitor the software’s performance and the overall impact on your credentialing processes. Collect feedback from users and make necessary adjustments to optimize the system. Regular evaluation helps in refining the processes and achieving the desired outcomes.

At Credsy, we are equipped to guide you through your digital transition. Our software is designed to be user-friendly and integrates effortlessly with CAQH, offering real-time analytics and straightforward role-based permissions. This setup is ideal for environments that aim for continual operational improvements.

With over 10,000 hours dedicated to understanding licensing and credentialing across various states, our team is well-versed in the nuances of these processes. We invite you to schedule a free consultation to explore how we can tailor our services to meet your specific needs. Our experts are ready to address any questions you have and offer customized solutions that ensure a smooth and successful digital transition for your healthcare operation.

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