Almost All U.S. Physicians Surveyed Feel Burned Out on a Regular Basis, with Many Having Considered Career Change, according to Recent athenahealth Physician Sentiment Survey

Technology plays critical role in shaping a more positive future – those with efficient EHRs spend two hours less per week working outside of normal business hours; Eight in 10 physicians look to AI to improve outcomes

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Excessive administrative workloads, reduced staffing, concerns over financial viability, and rising patient expectations around communications are all contributing to major challenges for America’s healthcare industry, athenahealth’s third Physician Sentiment Survey (PSS), conducted by The Harris Poll, has revealed. The survey polled 1,003 primary care and specialist physicians nationwide, with just five percent of respondents identifying as athenahealth customers.

Most physicians (93%) surveyed for the PSS said that they feel burned out on a regular basis, with doctors reporting that they spend an average of 15 hours per week working in “pajama time,” outside their normal work hours. When asked about their current employment situation, a majority (56%) said they have considered leaving the field or remaining in the field but no longer seeing patients.

Such negative sentiments held by large numbers of U.S. physicians would present a major challenge to the continued success of American healthcare, with serious implications for providers and patients alike.

A new line of questioning added to the survey this year focused on AI; 83% of survey respondents said AI could eventually reduce many of the problems facing healthcare. A majority of physicians already use electronic health record (EHR) solutions and praise them for helping provide high-quality care (65%) and improving efficiencies (54%). This year’s survey results provide further insight into the areas where technology (and, specifically, AI) could have a positive impact.

“One of the top concerns physicians have with regard to AI is the potential loss of human touch; that is an incredibly important signal to which we need to pay attention,” said Dr. Nele Jessel, chief medical officer of athenahealth. “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. 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.”

athenahealth’s annual Physician Sentiment Survey is designed to illuminate the physician experience and uncover their sentiments regarding the state of healthcare, including technology, data, and interoperability, and the impact of those factors on delivering quality care. athenahealth’s involvement was not revealed to participants.

A deeper look at the findings concluded:

Quality over quantity when it comes to clinical data

  • Nearly all physicians (94%) agree that getting the right clinical data at the right time is very important. But most physicians (80%) don’t believe that more clinical data is always the answer to achieving higher-quality care. The majority are currently so overburdened by information that it raises their stress levels (63%), and for many, this information overload is a growing cause of their regular burnout (30% vs. 24% in 2022).

Making healthcare a sustainable business for physicians

  • Only four in 10 (38%) physicians believe their organization/practice is on solid financial footing and fewer than half (45%) believe they have the resources and/or tools to deliver quality care. An additional indication of their financial vulnerability: over the past 12 months half (50%) felt they have been unable to provide quality care based on volume and cost, at least once a week or more frequently.
  • Nearly half (47%) of those who use both fee-for-service and value-based care payment models believe their organization/practice is on solid financial footing. This compares to only 35% of those who use just a fee-for-service and 31% of those who use solely a value-based care payment model. Notably, the average amount of time physicians work after normal business hours each week is slightly lower among those who use a value-based care payment model (12 hours per week) when compared to those who use a fee-for-service model (15 hours per week) or both (16 hours per week).

AI’s Potential Benefits and Challenges

  • Twice as many survey participants said that AI would eventually be part of the solution, compared to those who said it is part of the problem. Those who believed in the positive potential of AI are much more hopeful that the field of healthcare is headed in the right direction; they also felt less burned out on a regular basis than those who were pessimistic about AI’s positive role.
  • A majority of respondents (60%) see the loss of human touch as their biggest concern regarding the use of AI, reinforcing the belief that the best use of AI in healthcare will be by creating efficiencies in administrative functions, improving diagnostic accuracy, data monitoring, and other back-office tasks. Four in 10 physicians report being concerned that AI will just be one more thing that will complicate healthcare (42%) and that AI is being overhyped and cannot meet expectations (40%).
  • In addition to the annual Physician Sentiment Survey, athenahealth ran a separate survey administered by Dynata around consumers’ perceptions of AI, where results revealed gaps in awareness and trust. As with physicians, most consumers – who are inherently patients – also saw AI as part of the potential solution to healthcare yet have concerns about losing the human touch to healthcare.

For more commentary on these survey results and broader trends, visit


The third athenahealth Physician Sentiment Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of athenahealth from October 23 – November 8, 2023. The online survey interviews lasted approximately 12-13 minutes and were conducted among 1,003 physicians (750 PCPs and 253 Specialists), of whom only five percent use athenahealth’s EHR. Where applicable, the results are compared to the Baseline study that was conducted from January 4-26, 2022, among 743 practicing physicians. athenahealth’s sponsorship of the study was not revealed.

About athenahealth, Inc.

athenahealth strives to cure complexity and simplify the practice of healthcare. Our innovative technology includes electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement solutions that help healthcare providers, administrators, and practices eliminate friction for patients while getting paid efficiently. athenahealth partners with practices with purpose-built software backed by expertise to produce the insights needed to drive better clinical and financial outcomes. We’re inspired by our vision to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all. Learn more at

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations, and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas: building 21st-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit


Jean Borgman

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