Why healthcare organizations should commit to tackling physician burnout

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The pandemic has strained the resilience and well-being of doctors and other health professionals across the country. Now more than ever, healthcare systems and organizations need to commit to tackling physician burnout.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association have focused for more than three years on the underlying issues of physician burnout (and clinician burnout more generally). Their joint physician burnout working group recently worked with local and national organizations to engage on this issue. A total of 120 hospitals, physician organizations and healthcare leaders have signed on to affirm this commitment.

“In organizations there are 100 different priorities and unless something becomes a top management priority it often doesn’t get the attention, resources or attention it deserves,” said Steven Defossez. , MD, radiologist and vice president of clinical integration at the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association. “So that people on the front lines, in the trenches, know their leaders are hearing them, recognize burnout is a crisis, publicly commit to measuring and improving burnout, it translates to immediate relief and sustained improvement.

“And then, of course, when your organizations start to learn and understand what works and what doesn’t, and share that among themselves, there will obviously be even more benefits for frontline workers,” added Dr Defossez.

In a recent discussion, Dr Defossez shared three reasons why making a commitment to tackle physician burnout is the commitment your organization should make now.

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“From a leadership perspective – and probably from a public perspective as well – it’s that you are actually a humanitarian and you care about people and their well-being,” said Dr Defossez. “It turns out that when clinicians are exhausted, they are less satisfied with their work.

“They are more likely to develop disorders related to substance use, alcoholism, divorce, depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts,” he added, noting that “if you care about people, that’s a reason to fight burnout in your organization. “

Organizations should be committed to tackling burnout because they care about the patient, Dr Defossez said. Indeed, “exhausted clinicians are not as well received by patients” as those who are not.

“The patient experience of seeing someone who is emotionally exhausted, depressed and downcast is not the same as seeing someone who is perky, excited and there for you,” he added. “And it turns out that when the patient experience is worse, patients are less likely to follow doctor’s or clinician’s orders and their actual results worsen.”

This means that “if you care about quality and patient safety then you should be concerned about burnout,” said Dr Defossez.

As the leader of an organization, “you care about the financial well-being of the actual organization,” said Dr Defossez, adding that “clinician burnout leads to increased expenses and decreased income. organisation.

When doctors and other health care professionals are exhausted, they “are more likely to make mistakes and be involved in issues that increase costs without any added benefit,” he said. “For example, these people may be more likely to order lab tests or unnecessary consultations.”

“Teamwork and morale, as you can imagine, are also diminished when you work with someone who is under this kind of stress,” said Dr Defossez, noting that burnout often leads to stress. physicians to “reduce their hours or leave the organization as a whole.”

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“And in the health field, it is very expensive to replace a clinician,” he added. “This can be up to three times that person’s annual salary if you factor in all the costs of replacing a clinician, which is not just recruiting, but also the cost of creating a clinician. ‘a practice, the secondary costs of what happens to everyone in the clinic, and lost revenue.

“When everyone in the workforce is oriented, engaged and trying to do what the organization is trying to do, then the organization can really be successful,” noted Dr. Defossez.

Find out how much physician burnout is costing your organization.

Committed to making burnout a thing of the past, WADA has researched and is currently addressing the issues that cause and fuel physician burnout, including time constraints, technology and regulations, in order to better understand and reduce the challenges facing physicians. Focusing on the factors causing burnout at the system level, WADA assesses the well-being of an organization and provides targeted advice and solutions to support physician well-being and satisfaction.


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