In one of our previous articles, we discussed the unprecedented rates of “Physician Burnout” and the phenomenon that is plaguing the nation. Physician burnout rates have reached nearly 55% in the United States. It’s effect significantly influences the quality of care, patient safety, turnover, and patient satisfaction. Consequently, as the healthcare industry undergoes the shift toward value-based care, it is critical that healthcare organizations engage, productive, and committed physicians. And although physician burnout is an organizational issue, many institutions continue to operate as though burnout, fatigue, and professional engagement are the sole responsibility of the provider.
In a special article on Physician Well-Being, the Mayo Clinic discusses nine organizational strategies to promote physician engagement and prevent physician burnout. Below we have summarized their findings:
9 Strategies to Prevent Physician Burnout
- Strategy 1: Acknowledge and Assess the Problem- The first step is to recognize that physician burnout is a problem. It is also necessary to demonstrate the organization cares about the well-being of their physicians. Measuring physician well-being as a metric is key to achieving the organizational mission. Provide opportunities for physicians to talk about the problems they deal with through formats such as town halls, face-to-face meetings, and video interviews. Mayo Clinic suggests measuring physician engagement and satisfaction annually.
- Strategy 2: Harness the Power of Leadership- Identify physician leaders who have the ability to listen to and develop other providers. Strong leaders recognize each physician’s individual talents and how to employ effective motivational techniques. The Mayo Clinic suggests physicians should in turn, evaluate their leaders.
- Strategy 3: Develop and Implement Targeted Interventions- It is critical to work with medical staff to discuss issues that factor into physician burnout, and how the organization can make changes to help improve physician satisfaction. One of the top drivers of physician dissatisfaction and burnout is inefficiency. Create a team or group of leaders focused on maximizing efficiency that are common, but are uniquely different among surgical, primary care, radiology, and pathology work units. This helps providers feel more empowered to work with leadership in order to make necessary changes and improvements.
- Strategy 4: Cultivate Community at Work- Physicians have unique challenges different from any other type of profession, which is why having peer support is critical to helping physicians navigate their challenges. Hold small group meetings where doctors can have lunch or dinner together every couple of weeks or month, and consider a dedicated area for providers to gather. These practices can be helpful in encouraging peer support.
- Strategy 5: Use Rewards and Incentives Wisely- Some physicians are motivated by financial incentives; therefore many organizations have linked compensation to productivity. However, a productivity-based payment model can lead to burnout and overwork. Organizations should consider salaried compensation models or rewards that offer more flexibility and time for physicians to pursue other meaningful aspects of their work.
- Strategy 6: Align Values and Strengthen Culture – For an organization to achieve its overall mission, it must:
- Be mindful of factors that influence culture.
- Consider ways to keep values of the organization fresh.
- Periodically ensure actions and values are aligned. It is also important to evaluate staff through an all-staff survey, in order to equip leadership with the understanding of how well the organization is living their values.
- Strategy 7: Promote Flexibility and Work-Life Integration- Encouraging work-life balance is key to preventing physician burnout. Most providers work long hours and have demanding schedules. By offering flexible work hours, providers can start early or work later and have the ability to manage and take ownership of their own schedules.
- Strategy 8: Provide Resources to Promote Resilience and Self-care - Research has found that doctors who take care of their own health provide more optimal counseling and screening practices to their patients. Organizations should provide resources and tools to promote self-care such as work-life integration, fitness, sleep, diet, relationships, and hobbies.
- Strategy 9: Facilitate and Fund Organizational Science- Organizations should support efforts to reduce burnout and promote physician engagement. For example, in 2007, the Mayo Clinic started a program on Physician Well-Being. The focus of this program was to develop new knowledge and evidence on how to reduce burnout and promote physician engagement. Considering the profound effect that physician well-being has on quality of care and patient satisfaction, it is a key factor that should be recognized and addressed by policy makers and healthcare organizations nationwide.