More and more healthcare industry leaders have come to the realization that physician burnout is more than just a frustration for physicians: it’s a threat to the health and well-being of the entire American public. A report was published last week by the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Harvard Global Health Institute to present the history of physician burnout, the severity of this epidemic, and action steps towards a solution in our industry.
Physician Burnout Affects Everyone
According to this report, nearly half of all physicians are experiencing some form of burnout. Symptoms of burnout include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and an experience of ineffectiveness. Half of all physicians should not have to experience this burnout from their work. Even if this did not have an impact on health organizations and patients, we would still need to support our physicians to find a solution.
Not only does this affect the work life of physicians themselves, but burnout also has a huge impact on the entire healthcare industry. The US Department of Health and Human Services has predicted that by the year 2025 there will be a physician shortage of up to 90,000 physicians. The main cause of this physician shortage? You guessed it—physician burnout.
This loss of physicians comes at a high cost for health organizations. The estimated loss of revenue per full-time physician is $990,000. On top of that, the cost of recruiting and replacing a physician can be anywhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000. Together, it could cost an employer almost $2,000,000 per lost physician.
Finally, physician burnout affects their patients. Patient satisfaction is greatly reduced as a result of being treated by burned out physicians. Not only that, but there is evidence that burnout is linked to an increase in medical errors. As you can see, there is potential harm for everyone involved, not just the physicians experiencing symptoms of burnout.
A Call to Action on Physician Burnout
This report published by the Massachusetts Medical Society calls for all stakeholders in the US healthcare system to collectively take action to address the serious problem of physician burnout. If we do not tackle this problem, the consequences will be severe, and will affect everyone. The report ends with a haunting statement:
“If left unaddressed, the worsening crisis threatens to undermine the very provision of care, as well as eroding the mental health of physicians across the country.”