The Physicians Foundation 2021 Survey of America's Physicians Examines the Pandemic's Impact
COVID-19 Impact Edition: A Year Later


September 7, 2021

More than a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians are continuing to experience new sources of stress that are taking an elongated toll on their wellbeing and the wellbeing of those in their immediate environments.

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.

Last year, The Physicians Foundation redirected the focus of its biennial national physician survey exclusively to the pandemic and its impact on physicians. The 2021 survey expands on these findings to uncover how COVID-19 continues to have a lasting impact on physicians, practices and patient experiences. Trends and topics typically addressed by the biennial survey to provide a “state of the union” of the medical profession, including physician work hours, use of electronic health records (EHR), valued-based compensation and others, are not addressed in this special edition. The Physicians Foundation will continue to examine these and related issues in future surveys and research.

As physicians continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic, despite the introduction of multiple vaccines and treatment options, they routinely have even less time to devote to completing surveys.

Therefore, to assess how physician wellbeing has changed over the course of the last year, The Physicians Foundation determined to conduct the 2021 survey utilizing previously examined question themes. These questions, while updated to reflect how feedback has changed in recent months, provide a comparison viewpoint so we might further understand the true impact of COVID-19 on the health system overall a year after the pandemic began.

This survey was conducted exclusively online among U.S. physicians and was designed to last no more than 10 minutes. It was completed in June 2021.

Key findings include:

  • 8 in 10 physicians were impacted because of COVID-19
    • 49% reported a reduction in income
    • 32% experienced a reduction in staff
    • 18% switched to a primary telemedicine practice
  • 61% percent of physicians report often experiencing feelings of burnout, showing a significant increase since 2018 as tracked by The Physicians Foundation data
  • 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

To read the complete survey along with more key findings, you can find the full PDF here. 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.