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How Can We Reduce Physician Burnout

Both doctors and patients feel the effects when a clinician is suffering from burnout. This is an issue that has existed for years, but in the last seven years, there has been an increased effort to address burnout in physicians. In 2012, the American Medical Association (AMA) began to focus heavily on the issue of physician burnout. […]

Anthony Kopiecki How Can we Reduce Physician Burnout

Both doctors and patients feel the effects when a clinician is suffering from burnout. This is an issue that has existed for years, but in the last seven years, there has been an increased effort to address burnout in physicians.

In 2012, the American Medical Association (AMA) began to focus heavily on the issue of physician burnout. Today, the AMA continues to educate healthcare organizations on this issue. Their primary goal is to help these organizations understand that workplace burnout in healthcare is usually due to an issue with the system rather than the employee. The focus should be placed on repairing the workplace rather than individual problems. 

While reports of burnout have dropped significantly since 2017, the vice president of professional satisfaction at the AMA, Christine A. Sinsky, MD, thinks that there is still work to do. She reveals that “addressing the crisis requires continued investment from hospitals and health system in a comprehensive strategy that targets barriers to efficiently providing patients with high-quality care as the primary driver of physician burnout.” Continuing the focus of creating an infrastructure that supports physicians can be tough for some organizations to accept; however, it’s vital to the overall success of healthcare organizations. It’s especially tricky because the current framework is not built for this effort. 

Even though there is a larger focus on reducing physician burnout, not all are structurally ready for the change. Clinicians such as Dr. Ann Marie Sun, medical director of population health at Arizona Care Network, reveals three areas that can help with reducing burnout rates. 

    • Sun argues that there are many demands consuming doctor’s time, much of which could be worked into the supporting teams’ work instead. Teaching doctors to delegate and manage is a core part of this. Utilizing a whole team to support the patient’s administrative needs would reduce pressure on the physician and help create a better line of healthcare that allows doctors to focus on their patients.
    • Another way to reduce burnout includes implementing an entire paradigm shift when it comes to patient empowerment. Instead of physicians being the single gatekeeper for a patient’s health, we have to empower patients to take control of their health. This means teaching patients to track their own health histories and medications as well as paying more attention to what they personally need to accomplish to ensure that they are healthy.
    • Finally, many including Sun, agree that there is a need for a focus on technology. Some are concerned that technology will create distance between patients and doctors. However, if used appropriately, an entire team of providers can use technology to reduce physician burnout. According to Sun, “technology can streamline practice operations and provide meaningful data to help physicians achieve better clinical outcomes for patients and drive population health.” This also helps to make the entire process of doctor visits faster and more effective.

Changes must happen on a workplace level as well as an overall policy level to make sure that our physicians are receiving the support that they need to reduce burnout levels. While there is still much work to do, there are many who are focusing on this issue.

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