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Physicians are facing more demands on their time than ever. What can payers do to help?

[burn-out]: fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.

Increased prevalence of complex, chronic conditions. Numerous documentation requirements. Digital transformation and disruption. The shift to value-based care models. With all of the change happening in health care industry today, it is no wonder that physicians are feeling the burn.

According to a recent report published by Medscape, 44% of physicians report feeling burnout, although some studies put the number at more than half.[1],[2] Just recently, the World Health Organization added a category for burnout to its official directory of disease diagnoses, and it is classified as an occupational condition, not a medical one.[3]  The recognition of this challenge among health care industry leaders has led some to suggest that the traditional Triple Aim (improving the patient experience, increasing the quality of care, reducing costs) be expanded to include physician satisfaction and be renamed the Quadruple Aim.[4]

A key driver of burnout may lie in physicians’ relationship with payers, including frustrations with administration, documentation, payment and delivery changes, and metrics reporting. And yet despite this likely link, little research has been conducted on what specific aspects of this relationship are a source of satisfaction or frustration.

The Research

The UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care, in partnership with SPH Analytics, published new research recently in the American Journal of Managed Care that explores this question—what core payer features and operations drive physician satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

SPH Analytics developed its own proprietary survey for physicians, assessing satisfaction along key domains such as pharmacy, quality, utilization management, and call center support. Based on an analysis of more than 3,000 physician survey responses, there were several insights the research provided about the physician-payer relationship.

The Results

  • While there is room to improve satisfaction with payers in many areas, the greatest strides can be made in pharmacy services and formulary management.
  • Physicians had 20% higher satisfaction with payers that were vertically integrated (also known as an integrated delivery and finance system, like UPMC).
  • Physicians were also highly satisfied with the largest plans and the smallest plans by number of lives covered.
  • Physicians who practiced independently rated satisfaction with payers higher than physicians in larger practices. Primary care physicians rated higher satisfaction than specialists.

From these results and insights, there are a number of actionable recommendations for payers to take into consideration when attempting to improve physician satisfaction and reduce any contribution to physician burnout. To learn more about these recommendations, read the full article, “Physician Satisfaction With Health Plans: Results from a National Survey”, at the American Journal of Managed Care website.


Berg, S. (2019, July 23). WHO adds burnout to ICD-11. What it means for physicians. Retrieved from American Medical Association | Physician Health:

Bodenheimer, T., & Sinsky, C. (2014, Nov-Dec). From triple to quadruple aim: care of the patient requires care of the provider. Ann Fam Med, 12(6), 573-6. doi:10.1370/afm.1713.

Dyrbye, L. N., Shanafelt, T. D., Sinsky, C. A., Cipriano, P. F., Bhatt, J., Ommaya, A., . . . Meyers, D. (2017, July 5). Burnout Among Health Care Professionals: A Call to Explore and Address This Underrecognized Threat to Safe, High-Quality Care. Retrieved from National Academy of medicine:

Medscape. (2019). National Physician Burnout, Depression, & Suicide Report 2019. Medscape. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

[1] (Medscape, 2019)

[2] (Dyrbye, et al., 2017)

[3] (Berg, 2019)

[4] (Bodenheimer & Sinsky, 2014)