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How Pharma Can Help Address Physician Burnout–Amplifying the Voice of the Physician


Prescribers cite ways to alleviate systemic threats to their ability to serve.

Daniel S. Fitzgerald

Daniel S. Fitzgerald
Apollo Intelligence

Physician burnout remains a persistent obstacle to providing quality healthcare–and an unspoken factor in prescriber dialogues across pharma interactions. It’s an underlying driver and threat to physician retention,1 staffing shortages, medical errors,2 and healthcare professional (HCP) mental health.

When prescribers are asked how pharma companies can help, doctors have a lot to say–with often incisive remarks.

Finding 1: While declining slightly in 2023, prescriber burnout remains materially higher than pre-pandemic

A 2023 InCrowd report3 finds that US physician burnout declined slightly in 2023, with 64% percent of healthcare professionals (HCPs) saying they are frustrated by the pressure put on them today–down from 70% in 2022, yet more than the 47% found in 2021. Data were fielded in January 2024 and corroborate other recent reports.

Nearly one in four HCPs in the US now say they feel the impact of professional burnout on their mental health (26%), or that they are burned out professionally (23%). “We get treated like a drive-through restaurant. They want to order something, and leave,” said a neurologist.

Finding 2: Quality of care and physician retention are being impacted

More than half (52%) say that burnout frequently impacts doctors’ ability to provide high-quality clinical care to their patients. One in four HCPs feel their clinical practice does not effectively address staff burnout. “The quality of care is not as important as the quantity of care,” said a PCP.

One quarter of doctors in 2023 say they are considering leaving their clinical profession. Only 27% today would encourage a family member to pursue their career.

Finding 3: AI is not a panacea

Unlike recent studies, only 28% of HCPs in InCrowd’s report4 say that AI can significantly alleviate burnout through administrative automation. Even fewer HCPs see significant benefit from any of five other AI-enabled technologies: virtual health assistants (13%), remote patient monitoring (10%), diagnosis assistance (9%), personalized treatment plans (8%), and healthcare chatbots (6%).

Finding 4: Gender, age impact frustration and sense of appreciation

Three-quarters of female physicians are frustrated by the pressure put on HCPs today, compared to 58% of male physicians–with fewer female doctors (27%) feeling appreciated, compared to 35% of male doctors. Younger doctors under age 50 also are more frustrated (66% vs 62%) and fewer feel appreciated (29% vs. 35%).

Can Pharma Help, and How?

Two-thirds of prescribers agree that pharmas can help to alleviate burnout, offering specifics across five categories:

  • Prior authorization (PA) relief. “Dear God, why am I doing prior authorizations?” asks an oncologist. One in four respondents (19%) agree and suggested pharmas offload PAs in part or entirely–avoiding “doing every single peer to peer without a clear package of info to send,” said one neurologist.
  • Lower costs/financial support through copay or bridge programs when insurers deny coverage, including Medicare and Medicaid participants. Others asked for drug pricing consistent with Europe or Canada, or curtailed direct-to-consumer advertising, which “creates tension between what patients want and what physicians think is best,” one specialist said.
  • Reduce administrative burdens via patient assistance programs with easier access, and fewer forms and meetings.
  • Expand professional development and education with concise educational updates and better patient education materials. Others asked for help in advocating for more residency positions to alleviate the physician shortage, and for expanded mental health support.
  • Respect our time. “Too frequent contact or pushing is not the answer, as we are all very tired and fatigued from our jobs as it is,” said a physician. “Listen to us, rather than talk, talk, talk,” said an oncologist. Virtual vs. in-person meetings, shorter visits, and more Medical-Science Liaison (MSL) dialogues were suggested.

The Voice of the Prescriber–Are we Listening?

HCPs are using their collective voice to share ideas on ways to mitigate burnout. When pharma teams act to lighten the load on prescribers, they show that they value the HCPs whose life-saving capabilities ultimately take care of us all.

Daniel S. Fitzgerald is CEO and President of Apollo Intelligence


  1. Ligibel, Jennifer; Goularte, Nicolette; Berliner, Jennifer. Well-Being Parameters and Intention to Leave Current Institution Among Academic Physicians. Jama Network. December 15, 2023. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2812960
  2. 34% of Doctors Worldwide Observed Increased Medical Errors Due to Staffing Shortages, as Their Mental Health Suffers, Says Survey Healthcare Global Report. Survey Healthcare Global. March 21, 2022. https://www.surveyhealthcareglobal.com/press-releases/34-of-doctors-worldwide-observed-increased-medical-errors-due-to-staffing-shortages-as-their-mental-health-suffers-says-survey-healthcare-global-report/
  3. InCrowd Brings Instant Insight to Life Science Innovation. InCrowd. https://incrowdnow.com/?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=pressrelease&utm_campaign=pressrelease
  4. Physician Engagement in a Time of Accelerated Professional Burnout. InCrowd. https://incrowdnow.com/resources/physician-burnout-knowing-your-audience
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