Healthcare News & Insights

Physician burnout: Latest impact on hospitals

Physician burnout is still a significant problem for hospitals, and it’s not getting much better. In fact, it may be getting worse. A new Medscape survey shows exactly which physicians in your facility are feeling the effects of burnout the hardest. 

In a news briefing from the Advisory Board, Medscape talked to over 14,000 doctors in more than 30 specialties about their levels of burnout and published the results in its 2017 Lifestyle survey.

For the study, burnout was descried as “having feelings of cynicism, a low sense of personal accomplishment and a loss of enthusiasm for work.”

This year, 51% of survey respondents said they felt burnout, compared to only 40% back in 2013. Female physicians had slightly higher rates of burnout (55%) than male physicians (45%).

And the specialty with the highest level of burnout? Emergency medicine. Almost 60% of doctors who work in emergency departments said they felt some degree of burnout. Other specialties with high rates of burnout include obstetrics and gynecology (56%) and infectious disease (55%).

As per all doctors surveyed, the top three causes of burnout at work were:

  • too many bureaucratic tasks
  • spending too many hours at work, and
  • feeling like just a cog in a wheel.

Ways to fight burnout

Burnout can contribute to a number of problems in hospitals. Most notably, it often has a negative impact on the level of care providers give to patients, which can hurt a hospital’s chances at reimbursement under value-based payment models.

There are several ways hospitals can prevent burnout in ED physicians and other clinical staff. One of the best tactics is to make providers feel like their work is important to the hospital’s overall mission and that their efforts are valued.

According to an Advisory Board infographic, some strategies to get this message across include:

  • Place a premium on physicians’ time. A big part of respecting doctors’ contributions to your hospital’s success is respecting their time. Limit communications when doctors are offsite to only necessary messages, and take advantage of digital tools (such as secure text messaging systems) to get in touch with doctors at their convenience. It’s also important to select programs and systems that are user-friendly for physicians and don’t add unnecessary administrative burdens to their workloads.
  • Engage the entire care team when making decisions. It’s critical to understand how the entire clinical care team, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, works together to influence care decisions for patients. Be sure to shore up any weak spots in communication among members of the care team, and make collaborative decision making (with feedback from clinical staff at all levels) part of your hospital’s care improvement strategy.
  • Help doctors meet new performance expectations. When it comes to meeting quality goals for value-based care, hospitals must support physicians. Give them clear tools and metrics to measure their performance, and help them by providing training that targets key areas where they must improve. Reward successes, and use failures and mistakes as teaching tools instead of opportunities for punishment.

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