COVID-19 Impact: A Year Later
The Physicians Foundation’s 2021 Survey of America’s Physicians sought to understand the breadth of COVID-19’s impact on physicians, and their patients, colleagues and practices.
The Physicians Foundation’s 2021 Survey of America’s Physicians focuses on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted physician wellbeing and degrees of change over a year into the pandemic, as well as their patients, colleagues and practices. The survey was conducted from May 26 to June 9, 2021, and the data presented is based on 2, 504 responses. Complete methodology is available on page 18 on the full report.
8 in 10 physicians were impacted as a result of COVID-19.
- 49% reported a reduction in income
- 32% experienced a reduction in staff
- 18% switched to a primary telemedicine practice
As COVID-19 has lasting effects on health care in the community, most physicians anticipate:
- Continuing telehealth in their practice
- Seeing an increase in more serious health conditions
- A significant decline in independent practices
The majority of physicians identify their family (89%), friends (82%) and colleagues (71%) as most helpful to their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
- Medical practices/groups (53%) and hospitals/ health systems (35%) round out the top 5 of the most helpful external factors to mental health and wellbeing
Over 70% of physicians believe a multi- pronged approach needs to be taken to address mental health conditions, burnout and/or preventing suicide, such as:
- Confidential therapy, counseling or support phone lines
- Evidence-based professional training to prevent burnout, behavioral health conditions and suicide
- Peer-to-peer support groups
- Evidence-based education campaign to address stigma with seeking mental/behavioral health support
Sixty-one percent of physicians report often experiencing feelings of burnout, showing a significant increase since 2018 as tracked by The Physicians Foundation data.
- Although, nearly 46% would still recommend medicine as a career option to young people
When it comes to COVID-19 impacts on physician mental health:
- More than half of physicians (57%) have felt inappropriate feelings of anger, tearfulness or anxiety because of COVID-19, 46% of physicians have withdrawn or isolated themselves from others and 34% felt hopeless or without a purpose
- Despite the high incidence of mental health symptoms, only 14% of physicians sought medical attention
More than half (55%) of physicians know
of a physician who has either considered, attempted or died by suicide in their career. Twenty percent know of a physician who has either considered, attempted or died by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic:
- 14% of physicians know of a physician who considered suicide
- 4% of physicians know of a physician who attempted suicide
- 7% of physicians know of a physician who died by suicide