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Insurers, Payers Can Also Help With Health Worker Burn Out: Surgeon General’s Report


Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s sweeping report on health worker burn out listed five steps that insurers and payers could take to reduce the burden of burn out.

Vivek Murthy

Vivek Murthy

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s report on health worker burnout this week didn’t limit its recommendations to hospitals and other direct employers of health workers. The 76-page report cast a wide net, identifying steps that government entities, academic institutions, family members and healthcare workers themselves could take to prevent and lessen burn out.

Insurers and payers are among those mentioned that could take steps to deal with the burn out problem. The COVID-19 has worsened the burn out problem among those working in healthcare. The Surgeon General’s report says it was a crisis even before the pandemic when between 35% and 54% of nurses and physicians were reporting burnout and even greater proportion of medical students and residents.

The report mentions five steps that insurers and payers could take.

  • Support both the quality and quantity of time that health workers can spend with patients. Reimbursement systems can make health workers penalized for spending time with patients. The report says insurers and payers ought to engage with health workers to determine the optimal amount of time needed for visits.
  • Reduce administrative burdens. Citing a 2018 Inspector General’s report, the report says that inappropriate prior authorizations are considered to be the most burdensome regulatory challenge by many health workers. Payers can help committing to reviewing and revising the need for prior authorizations and to timely resolution of requests. The report also says that electronic prior authorization could save $147 million annually.
  • Ensure that health workers have access to quality mental health and substance use care. Insurers and payers can work to make sure their provider network have adequate numbers of mental health providers who are taking new patients. The report also mentions supporting telehealth access to mental health providers.
  • Partner with health care delivery systems. Standardizing administrative processes can improve care and reduce administrative burden, the report says. An unnamed Minnesota health plan develop standard for managing important chronic diseases that reduced paperwork and led to greater adherence to evidence-based care, the report says.
  • Increase transparency. Standardized, evidence-based metrics can help reduce data collection burdens, the report says, and promote better patient outcomes.

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