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New Survey Uncovers 6 in 10 Physicians Lack, but 9 in 10 Want, the Time and Ability to Address Patients’ Drivers of Health

Survey Also Finds Six in 10 Physicians Often Feel Burnt Out When Trying to Address Their Patients’ SDOH

The Physicians Foundation today released part one of three of its 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians, which examines the current impact of drivers of health (DOH) on physician practice, physician wellbeing and their patients as well as possible solutions needed to address DOH.

“Even before the pandemic, physicians knew that DOH have a profound impact on not only the health of our patients, but on the cost of care and our ability to advance health equity,” said Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation.

“Nearly ninety percent of physicians indicated that they would like a greater ability to effectively address their patients’ DOH in the future. To make this a reality, we need to institute change to lift the barriers that prevent physicians from addressing their patients’ DOH and contribute to physician burnout and build broad-based understanding of the DOH and their implications for patients and physicians.”

The State of Physicians’ Ability to Address DOH

Though physicians believe addressing patients’ DOH is critical to improving patient health outcomes and lowering cost of care, six in 10 physicians (61%) feel they have little to no time and ability to effectively address their patients’ DOH.

However, this isn’t for lack of trying or effort—physicians face many barriers when addressing DOH. The majority of physicians indicated that their top challenges are limited time during patient visits (89%) and an insufficient workforce to navigate patients to community DOH resources (84%).

While there are helpful resources that exist to help physicians and patients navigate DOH, physicians still reported that the community resources are not available, inadequate or difficult to access (77%) and that there is inadequate information on how to access community resources (77%) which strongly contributes to these barriers.

“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no question that physicians and patients have all been impacted, some worse than others. Part of what drives the scale of that impact is DOH,” said Robert Seligson, CEO of The Physicians Foundation. “The desire from physicians to properly address the DOH is there. We need take the initiative to make changes, like screening patients to identify social needs and creating financial incentives to support physicians in addressing their patients’ unique needs.”

The Impact of Addressing DOH on Physician Mental Health

For many physicians, attempting to address DOH without adequate resources contributes to a growing list of barriers to provide high-quality, cost-effective care to patients. In a pandemic where physicians are already experiencing high levels of burnout, six in 10 physicians (63%) report often having feelings of burnout when trying to address their patients’ DOH. Additionally, six in 10 physicians (68%) believe managing patients’ DOH has a major impact on physician mental health and wellbeing.

More than half of physicians report the following DOH challenges cause them to experience stress or frustration on a daily or weekly basis:

  • 71% identified limited time during patient visit to discuss DOH
  • 64% identified insufficient workforce to navigate patients to community resources to address DOH
  • 63% identified existing payer reporting requirements taking time away from being able to address patients’ DOH
  • 57% identified lack of reimbursement for screening for or addressing DOH
  •  57% identified community resources unavailable, inadequate or difficult to access

“Eight in 10 physicians believe that challenges in addressing patients’ DOH contributes to physician burnout rates, a rate that is already unsustainably high. It is imperative that physicians be equipped with the proper resources to address their patients’ needs, which we know are impacted by DOH. As the data shows, when physicians cannot access resources to adequately address these challenges, it leaves room for feelings of hopelessness, stress and burnout,” noted Dr. Price.

The Future of Addressing DOH

When it comes down to it, eight in 10 physicians (80%) believe that the United States cannot improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs without addressing DOH. This means physicians need strategies and structures in place to support their efforts to address patients’ DOH. When asked, top strategies physicians identified as the most important to support themselves and other physicians in addressing patients’ DOH were:

  • Investing in community capacity to address patients’ DOH
  • Investing in the technological and human capacity to connect patients with community resources they need to be healthy
  • Screening patients to identify social needs
  • Significantly reducing existing payer reporting requirements and other administrative burdens to provide the necessary time to address DOH
  • Creating financial incentives for physician-directed efforts to address DOH
  • Including DOH in risk scoring

These strategy priorities indicate that policy steps and measures need to be taken to help physicians address their patients’ needs. In fact, multiple policy steps were identified as important by at least eight in ten physicians to improve health outcomes and ensure high-quality, cost-efficient care for all, with the top three being reimbursing physician-directed efforts to address DOH (86%), incentivizing payors to invest in availability and quality of community resources to address patients’ DOH (84%) and providing greater flexibility for Medicare Advantage to reimburse for addressing DOH (81%).

“It is no surprise that this data has revealed that the majority of physicians want more time and greater ability in the future to effectively address their patients’ DOH. However, even with this desire many still feel they cannot adequately do this due to lack of available resources, time and capacity,” added Robert Seligson.

“In 2021, The Physicians Foundation submitted the first-ever DOH measures to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which are currently under consideration to be included in federal payment programs. If adopted, these measures might potentially impact reimbursements for physicians, as well as address DOH in how our country pays for and delivers care to improve patient health.”

Read the full survey results here.


About The Physicians Foundation

The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit seeking to advance the work of practicing physicians and help them facilitate the delivery of high-quality health care to patients. As the U.S. health care system continues to evolve, The Physicians Foundation is steadfast in strengthening the physician-patient relationship, supporting medical practices’ sustainability and helping physicians navigate the changing health care system. The Physicians Foundation pursues its mission through research, education and innovative grant making that improves physician wellbeing, strengthens physician leadership, addresses drivers of health and lifts physician perspectives. For more information, visit

Survey Methodology

The Physicians Foundation’s Part One of Three: 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians, was sent by email to a list of physicians derived from Medscape’s proprietary data base. WebMD/Medscape Research Services leveraged the Medscape proprietary distribution of percentage of Primary Care Physicians vs Specialists to set quotas for this study. The survey was fielded from February 3 – February 11, 2022, and the data presented is based on 1,502 responses.

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