As health care continues to evolve, the pressures on physicians seem to grow almost daily.
Billing and coding challenges.
Keeping up with an explosion of articles and clinical data.
Changing consumer expectations.
And simply the speed of change itself.
All of these things, and more, come to bear on the shoulders of the practicing physician.
Hence it should come as no surprise that physician burnout is a growing problem in our industry. A feeling of exhaustion and a sense of personal ineffectiveness are elements of being burned out. The consequences can be substantial.
We cannot continue to overburden physicians with tasks and challenges that bring no value to our patients and to our industry.
Data shows that burned-out physicians provide lower-quality care, receive lower patient satisfaction scores, and make more avoidable medical errors. All of this results in lower personal career satisfaction and spirals into increased turnover and premature retirement, particularly for primary care physicians who are hit the hardest.
BayCare has a large obligation to make the workplace as physician-friendly as possible.
Recent national polls reveal that only one in 10 physicians would currently recommend a career in medicine. More than half of those physicians self-reported having elements of burnout. Fortunately, there is a growing sense of awareness and a call-to-action. A simple internet search of the topic produces countless articles and a growing library of books, videos and lectures on the subject.
So what is a physician or team member to do to guard against burnout and what, if any, efforts should BayCare take?
Should we simply tell physicians to work harder and let the chips fall where they may? After all, isn’t personal well-being the responsibility of the person?
In our view, personal well-being is a shared responsibility in which we provide an excellent work environment, and individuals avail themselves of opportunities and resources. More specifically, we believe that the work environment should be conducive to helping people be as effective and engaged as possible in order to deliver the best care to the patient. In this way, we believe BayCare has a large obligation to make the workplace as physician-friendly as possible. Of course, individuals have to do their part as well, but many need help. To this end, BayCare has embarked on a series of activities.
Education and Awareness
Education and awareness are the first steps in addressing any challenge. And so we have begun educational sessions and an awareness campaign to identify these issues in ourselves and in others. Symposiums, retreats, videos and written materials are being developed and delivered to our boards, our physicians and our leadership team. Awareness matters, and we must come together to look after ourselves and our colleagues.
Leadership development may seem off topic, yet burned-out leaders can create unhealthy work environments for others. Helping physicians develop leadership skills, coping skills and social adaptations can help them as leaders and countless others who may be impacted in the course of work. BayCare continues to expand this portion of our leadership program and develop additional burnout avoidance training.
Organizational Transformation and Culture
Creating a culture of physician inclusivity and a sense of purpose and effectiveness is paramount to our future success and sustainability as a system. While physician engagement should not be misinterpreted as physician agreement, we must meaningfully engage our physicians in all matters that impact patient care and workflows so that they can feel like their voice truly does matter. This is good for patients. It’s good for physicians. And it’s good for BayCare.
In addition, we as a health system must use our performance improvement resources to find ways to eliminate non-value added work and help our physicians become more efficient. Examples of transformational efforts currently underway at BayCare include putting scribes to work in our emergency rooms, optimizing the electronic medical record to reduce extra clicks, auto-populating templates, standing up care management resources, and better integrating enabling technologies. These are just some of the ways that BayCare is trying to improve the work environment and help physicians feel better, work better, and deliver sustainably great care to their patients.
Finally, we are developing a physician-specific crises management initiative to help physicians and their families when they do fall into the throes of burnout. We already have experience in this space with our Employee Assistance Program and will look to expand this service with customized approaches to help physicians in difficulty.
It is our belief that physician burnout, physician resiliency and physician well-being are things we need to address. We cannot continue to overburden physicians with tasks and challenges that bring no value to our patients and to our industry.
We have an obligation to help our physicians as a leading health system dedicated to delivering clinically excellent care to the patients we serve. This obligation includes de-bulking their workflows, helping them enrich their own lives with work-life balance activities, and transforming our culture to enable their voices in care decisions while creating an innovative and contemporary work environment for our entire team.