Physician burnout is a serious problem. We can no longer look the other way when almost half of all physicians are experiencing some form of burnout. That is what the Massachusetts Medical Society, along with other contributors, presents in their recent report on the crisis of physician burnout. In their report, they included 3 concrete strategies for healthcare stakeholders to implement:
Support physicians seeking appropriate treatment for burnout
As a medical community, we should be encouraging physicians who have recognized their burnout symptoms and who are actively seeking help. Unfortunately, many physicians are discouraged from getting treatment due to stigmas that are prevalent in the healthcare environment.
Physicians who are applying for licensure should not fear punishment for seeking out treatment for symptoms of burnout or other mental health issues. Probing questions about their mental health should be discouraged, and safe-haven policies for those currently being treated should be implemented. The privacy and security of these physicians’ personal health information must be protected in order to continue fostering a culture that reduces burnout and improves the work-life of physicians.
Improve the standards of EHRs, with increased usability and open APIs
One thing that is widely agreed upon in the medical community is that EHRs are the major contributor to physician burnout. They are frustrating and difficult to use, and physicians are spending twice as much time with their EHR as they are face to face with patients.
“For many physicians, EHRs impose a frustrating and non-intuitive workflow that makes excessive cognitive demands and detracts from, rather than reinforces, the goals of good patient care.”
This should not be the case. In order for EHRs to be a more comprehensive tool, EHR vendors need to permit the use of APIs, which allows third-party developers to create apps that work within the EHR. These apps can allow for different functionality within the EHR, which naturally lends to better usability. Different physician practices, specialties, and hospital systems have varying workflows and needs. Their EHR can better meet their needs if third-party apps are available.
Establish an executive-level Chief Wellness Officer at all major health care organizations
Appointing an executive Chief Wellness Officer to focus on this issue will give traction to addressing this problem and looking for the root causes at each organization. This position would be responsible for studying the burnout experienced in their own organization and implementing strategies to reduce this over time.
There is no quick fix for overcoming a problem as pervasive as physician burnout. However, these real strategies presented by the Massachusetts Medical Society offer hope that over time, we can overcome this together. As long as the medical community can come together to protect our physicians, we will make progress. There is hope for a healthcare system where physician burnout is the exception, not the rule.