Physician burnout is a major problem and addressing the epidemic requires systemic changes by healthcare organizations, educational institutions, and all levels of government, according to a new report from the National Academy of Medicine.
Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being outlines six goals that these stakeholders should pursue to prevent and mitigate clinician burnout and foster professional well-being.
Recent studies show between one-third and a half of clinicians report experiencing emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of sense of professional accomplishment: the three major characteristics of burnout, according to Christine K. Cassel, MD, senior advisor for strategy and policy, department of medicine, University of California San Francisco, and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.
“It is a problem associated with the workplace, not a mental health diagnosis,” Cassel says. “It has consequences both for clinicians and for patients, with studies showing negative impact on quality of care and on patient experience.”
Burnout is created by inefficient systems of care, where the resources available do not match the requirements of the clinician’s job, according to Cassel. “Many complex interacting factors play a role, at the level of the front-line care delivery, the healthcare system and the external environment,” she says. “Healthcare executives’ leadership is necessary to spur the awareness, the innovation and the culture changes required to address most of the causal factors. Burnout and its human effects on clinicians and on patients is a moral issue, but it is also a financial issue.”
The Harvard Business Review estimates that burnout costs the healthcare system $4.6 billion per year.