83 percent of doctors in new survey say AI could help fight burnout

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Most physicians in a new survey said they regularly feel burned out, and many believe artificial intelligence (AI) could be the solution.

The survey, released Wednesday by Athenahealth, found around 93 percent of respondents experienced burnout after working 15 hours over their normal hours.

The struggle with burnout is catching up to health care professionals who also contend with vast administrative workloads and staffing shortages. Roughly 83 percent, however, said AI could contend with some of those problems hovering over the health care industry, per the survey.

Still, the majority of respondents, 60 percent, said their biggest concern with AI is the loss of human touch; 4 out of 10 physicians in the survey said the emerging technology will just contribute to complicating the field.

But, if doctors see the benefits outweigh the risks — especially by reducing clerical work and providing greater efficiency — it will be better for them and the patients, according to Dr. Nele Jessel, Athenahealth’s chief medical officer. 

“In order for physicians to fully benefit from technology as a care enhancement tool, they need to experience more advantages and fewer added complexities or burdens,” Jessel said. “If we get this right, we’ll be using the technology to reduce administrative work and increase efficiencies in ways that allow physicians to refocus on their patients.”

If helpful in the long run, AI could benefit the medical field whose workers currently say they do not have enough in-person time with patients and feel the retention struggles affecting their organizations, the researchers said.

Almost 60 percent of doctors said they think they do not have enough in-person time with patients they are treating, per the poll. Staff shortages and dwindling staff retention are impacting the physicians’ organization, according to 78 percent of the survey’s respondents. 

If AI can offset some of the clerical workload doctors deal with, it will give a huge boost to the medical field, as some professionals are overworked to the point they’ve considered leaving the field, researchers explained.

About 64 percent of respondents said they feel overwhelmed by clerical requirements, and more than 60 percent have also considered leaving the field altogether, according to the survey.  

Athenahealth surveyed 1,003 doctors between Oct. 23 and Nov. 8 through The Harris Poll.

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