A new study published in the British Journal of General Practice has found that doctors or general practitioners (GPs) who treat many patients with multimorbidity (multiple chronic diseases) are more likely to experience a significant mental strain than doctors who treat fewer patients with severe illness.
The study, conducted by Danish researchers, also revealed that GPs or primary care physicians (PCPs) who treat many patients with multiple illnesses are at a greater risk of burnout.
Moreover, previous studies have shown that patients with multiple chronic diseases receive worse medical care in the healthcare system.
The new study also shows that the prevalence of doctors with the signs and symptoms of poor wellbeing and burnout has also been on the rise.
Senior researcher Dr. Anette Fischer Pedersen said, “One of our findings in the study is that among the quarter of general practitioners who had the fewest number of patients with multimorbidity in 2016, 7 percent had what we call full burnout syndrome. This contrasts with the figure of 12 percent among the quarter who had the highest number of patients with multimorbidity.”
She explained the findings suggest that it is important to take a close look at the working conditions of PCPs.
“As things are today in the context of general practitioners’ time and remuneration, there is often no difference between treating a patient with a long and complex history of illness and a normally healthy patient who is there to get treatment for an uncomplicated illness. This puts general practitioners under a lot of pressure,” said Dr. Pedersen.
One thing is for sure – the study has found the association between the number of patients with multiple illnesses and the lack of wellbeing among PCPs.
Dr. Pederson noted. “It’s no secret that there are areas in Denmark where there’s a lower level of public health than in others. This may mean it will be difficult to get GPs to work in areas where the need for competent medical treatment is highest, simply because working there is an unattractive proposition.”
“If we’re determined to work towards reducing the risk of burnout among general practitioners, we will also help to prevent inequality in health,” she added.
Since 2004, researchers have been conducting several studies to find out the risk of burnout among doctors. And the new study has been able to find an association between multimorbidity and poor wellbeing among doctors.