Addressing the factors contributing to physician burnout

This post first appeared in the fall 2021 edition of Minnesota Family Physician magazine.

Burnout was an epidemic in the health care community prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a JAMA Internal Medicine article from 2017 noted that 25% of family physicians self-reported signs of burnout, pointing to several work-related conditions as contributing factors (like stress, work environment and job demands). These conditions have only worsened since March 2020.

Our health care system—its culture and the expectations on our physician workforce—is neither sustainable nor healthy. The system isn’t just broken; it’s inherently flawed by design, and it’s breaking our physicians, our healers.

While there is not a singular cause for burnout, family physicians from across Minnesota have voiced shared concerns, including:

  • Primary care physicians are being pushed to see MORE patients in shorter increments (a byproduct of the fee-for-service reimbursement system).
  • The prior authorization process and battle to get patients the treatments that they need create unnecessary barriers and burdens for both patients and physicians.
  • Physicians are regularly completing patient documentation during their personal time, after regular work hours.
  • There is growing frustration and disillusionment among our physician workforce due to increasing anti-science rhetoric and all the ways that it impacts clinical care, public health and patient outcomes.
  • We launched a primary care stakeholder group, convening a coalition of health care workers, payers, systems and more to talk about the barriers to high quality primary care and develop recommendations for a system that works better for all. The MAFP (Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians) also continues to look for opportunities to advocate for increased primary care investment in Minnesota.
  • We have written several blog posts via [this] Advocating for Family Medicine blog addressing misinformation and disinformation and sharing ways to combat it and help educate patients on the facts and evidence.

The AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) has advocated for streamlined documentation and billing guidelines, interoperability of electronic medical records, a core set of primary care quality measures and reduced prior authorization demands. They’ve also shared tips and resources with members for reducing work after clinic and recently released a Family Medicine Practice Hack video with tips to streamline prior authorization procedures.

See the AAFP’s prior authorization resources at, and learn more about the AAFP’s advocacy and work to address family physician burnout at

Interested in MAFP advocacy or want to learn more? Contact Jami Burbidge, MAM, MAFP Chief Operating Officer, at

What Our Members Are Saying About Burnout

Burnout is pervasive. Health systems can engage…by providing mental health resources and time to access those resources. I advocate for recognition of each individual physician’s needs and adjustment of expectations to meet those needs. Whether it’s increased nurse support, decreased clinic hours or shifting a schedule to include more virtual visits, health systems can reach forward to provide a workable, sustainable system that enables physicians to effectively practice medicine with joy and energy.” –Carolyn Kampa, MD, FAAFP, Minnesota Medical Association Physician Well-being Advisory Council and MAFP Foundation Board of Directors

Family physicians need to band together and use the MAFP as a resource to push back against the multiple, ever-changing burdens placed on us by payers. The prior authorization process is particularly problematic, whether it’s for medications that our patients have been taking for a long time which are no longer covered or for imaging that we know our patients should receive. Much like our documentation, these prior authorizations end up happening after hours. Combating misinformation in the COVID-19 pandemic is also problematic.”Scott Colson, MD, President, Voyage Healthcare

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Post author: Emie Buege, communications

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