Physician stress and burnout are common issues that clinicians face throughout their career. These symptoms can have negative consequences for physician wellness, quality of patient care, and the health care system. Identifying factors associated with stress and burnout is critical when implementing strategies to manage or proactively reduce these negative symptoms.
Causes and symptoms to look for:
Stress and burnout can result from many different work-related factors, including excessive workload and hours, clerical burden, difficulties with the electronic medical record system (EMR), inefficient workflows, and even issues in practice culture. It is important to identify symptoms early and before they worsen. Look out for things such as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, reduced sense of accomplishment, and changes in behavior.
Strategies to prevent and manage burnout:
Acknowledge and assess the problem
Even if physician stress is not currently a problem in your practice, acknowledging the global issue of burnout and demonstrating that your practice cares about the well-being of its physicians is a good procedure to put in place. Consider conducting an annual assessment of physician satisfaction that includes areas such as emotional health / stress level, work life balance, and professional satisfaction. Practices may also want to consider benchmarking their metrics against similar practices on a national level.
Reduce administrative burdens
Increased administrative burden can often be a result of physicians’ willingness to go the extra mile on behalf of their patients if they know the patients will benefit. However, most of these tasks do not necessarily require the specific training and skills of a physician. To facilitate the elimination, reduction, alignment, and streamlining of administrative tasks, all key stakeholders must be identified. From there, they should collaborate to make better use of existing health information technologies and develop more innovative approaches to manage these administrative tasks. Another option to consider would be outsourcing areas that the practice may not be able to execute as efficiently as they would like to.
Enable technology solutions
Leveraging technology and ensuring you have reliable EMR, practice management, and other technology systems can help reduce physician stress levels. Identifying opportunities through your vendors for shortcuts, alternative workflows, and methods of documentation can save time. Communication is crucial; this includes your vendors, physicians, clinical and administrative staff.
Create a positive work environment
Promoting a positive work environment is essential and will always be a driving factor in physician satisfaction. A practice’s culture, values, and principles have significant influence in the work environment. Evaluating culture and involving other clerical and administrative staff in the process is a good way to ensure your practice stays on course and continually demonstrates its values and mission.
By investing in physicians’ professional experience and satisfaction, a practice improves its chances of maintaining a healthy physician retention rate. Proactively managing and preventing high stress levels and burnout will also result in enhanced patient care delivery and improved outcomes.
Patrick Garcia is an Associate Director with MMG Healthcare. His background includes experience in areas including practice management and oversight, strategy, revenue cycle management, planning, project management, process implementation, and systems integration. Patrick actively advises clients on behalf of MMG, supporting their efforts to deliver optimal business and clinical outcomes.