More than half of family physicians report markers of poor well-being, and burnout can negatively affect the quality of patient care, according to research from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). And as the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians continues to grow – with the shortfall projected to reach between 20,000 and 55,000 over the next decade – the coronavirus pandemic is compounding pressures that physicians face.

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To improve physician well-being and reduce burnout, the United Health Foundation has partnered with the AAFP Foundation “The need to improve physician wellness is critical, especially as COVID-19 has presented health care providers with a new set of challenges and additional stressors,” said Dr. Ken Cohen, a practicing internist, and senior medical director at Optum Care, a UnitedHealth Group company, during the Washington Post Live event. “By supporting AAFP and its innovative new program, we are acting on our long-standing commitment to improving physician well-being and primary care.”

ICYMI: Video Replay

Washington Post Live: Improving Physician Wellness


UnitedHealth Group sponsored a virtual event on Washington Post Live on Thursday, Oct. 8 about primary care and physician wellness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click to watch the replay. 

Joining Dr. Cohen in the facilitated discussion was Dr. Catherine Florio Pipas, a family physician and co-chair of AAFP’s Leading Physician Well-Being program.

“Our goal with this program is to foster a movement in family medicine that changes the culture, policies and systems in health care to better support clinician well-being and improve our understanding of how to lead change in health care organizations to improve clinician wellness,” said Dr. Pipas. “We are grateful to the United Health Foundation for its partnership in this project and for its commitment to improving physician wellness.”

The program will train 200 family physicians to lead change for improved clinician well-being in their practices and organizations, including the development of a change management plan for the participant’s organization. Upon completion, AAFP will support physician participants as they create and implement an applied project that creates change at the organizational level. 

“In health systems around the globe, those who prioritize primary care have better health outcomes,” Dr. Cohen said. “As physician leaders, it is our responsibility to lead the efforts to correct this critical issue.”

The physician wellness training program will begin in January 2021. AAFP is accepting applications currently, with additional information available on its website.