Wednesday, March 29, 2017

More Needs to Be Done to Address Physician Burnout, Says Group of Health System CEOs

Tackling physician burnout will require leaders from U.S. health care systems to make changes to address the root of this growing public health crisis, wrote the CEOs of 10 health care delivery organizations in a Health Affairs blog posted Tuesday. In the piece, the CEOs outlined several commitments to addressing physician well-being and encouraged other executives to recognize physician burnout as a serious problem and respond quickly.

Previous studies indicate burnout is more common in physicians than other U.S. workers—and the disparity in burnout in physicians relative to the general U.S. working population is growing. 

“The high level of burnout among physicians should be considered an early warning sign of dysfunction in our health care system,” the authors wrote. “Professional satisfaction for physicians is primarily driven by the ability to provide high-quality care to patients in an efficient manner. Dissatisfaction is driven by factors that impede this effort, including administrative and regulatory burdens, limitations of current technology, an inefficient practice environment, excessive clerical work, and conflicting payer requirements.”

Physician burnout threatens the U.S. health care system, including health care costs and patient safety, they noted. 

“Leaders of health care delivery organizations must embrace physician well-being as a critical factor in the long-term clinical and financial success of our organizations. We must … address this issue with the same urgent methods we would use to solve any other important business problem: commit to measurement, develop strategy and tactics, and allocate the resources necessary to achieve success.”

The CEOs described recent commitments aimed at reducing physician burnout, including the following:
  • Regularly assessing and reporting out on the well-being of the physician workforce at their respective institutions. 
  • Evaluating and tracking the institutional costs of physician turnover, early retirement, and reductions in clinical effort. 
  • Supporting collaborative, team-based models of care where physician expertise is maximally utilized for patient benefit, with tasks that do not require the unique training of a physician delegated to other skilled team members.
  • Encouraging government/regulators to address the increasing regulatory burden that is driving inefficiency, redundancy, and waste in health care and to proactively monitor and address new unnecessary and/or redundant regulations.
  • Encouraging and supporting the AMA and other national organizations in developing further initiatives to make progress in this area by compiling and sharing best practices from institutions that have successfully begun to address burnout, profiling case studies of effective well-being programs, efficient and satisfying changes in task distribution, and outlining a set of principles for achieving the well-being of health professionals.
APA recognizes the toll of physician burnout and is taking steps to promote the well-being of psychiatrists. 

In May, APA President-elect Anita Everett, M.D., will chair “Physician Wellness and Burnout: A Town Hall Discussion With APA Leadership” at this year’s Annual Meeting in San Diego. (Register now if you have not done so already.) Also joining in the town hall discussion will be APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., and Trustee-At-Large Richard Summers, M.D. Everett recently appointed Summers to chair the Work Group on Psychiatrist Well-Being and Burnout during her presidential year.

“APA leadership wants to hear from members regarding drivers of burnout, strategies for promoting wellness, and factors that contribute to professional satisfaction,” Summers told Psychiatric News. “My hope for the work group going forward is that we will review what we know about psychiatrist well-being and burnout and provide educational materials, self-assessment tools, and potential interventions for our members.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News articles “Annual Meeting Town Hall to Address Physician Burnout” and “Depression Found to Be Higher in Medical Students.”

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