A new report by the National Academy of Medicine urges action by government, educational institutions, and health care organizations to address the causes of physician burnout, which is experienced by up to one-half of clinicians in the U.S. and threatens patient care.
A combination of cumbersome and sometimes seemingly unnecessary rules and payment procedures, plus staff shortages and pressure to enter the age of electronic medical records, is causing emotional exhaustion, detachment, and a low sense of personal accomplishment, the report says.
“Studies estimate that between 35% and 54% of U.S. nurses and physicians have substantial symptoms of burnout, and the range for medical students and residents is between 45% and 60%. There are indications that burnout is a problem among all clinical disciplines and across care settings,” the report states.
“The high rates of burnout reported among U.S. clinicians and learners is a strong signal that the nation’s health care system is failing to achieve its aims for system-wide improvement.”
“Burnout is real,” said AUA President John H. Lynch, MD. “It impacts the entire health care system, and exacerbates already-existing work force shortages in many specialties, including urology.”
Report reflects AUA Census findings
Dr. Lynch said the report reflects the findings of the AUA Census, which reported burnout rates for urologists as being high, with more than one-third experiencing symptoms.
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“Addressing causes of burnout is a priority for the AUA,” said Dr. Lynch. The AUA endorses the six goals outlined in the report:
Creating positive work environments. Health care executives should commit to, and be accountable for, creating a work environment that promotes high-quality care, job satisfaction, and social support, the report says. It recommends that health care organizations create and maintain an executive leadership role dedicated to clinician well-being.
Addressing burnout in training and at early career stages. Schools of health professions (including medical schools, nursing schools, schools of pharmacy, and others) should alleviate major sources of stress by monitoring workload (including preparation for licensure examinations and required training activities), implementing pass-fail grading, improving access to scholarships and affordable loans, and building new loan repayment systems.
Reducing tasks that do not improve patient care. Federal agencies, state legislatures, and other standard-setting entities should identify and address the sources of clinician burnout related to laws, regulations, and policies, eliminating those that contribute little or no value to patient care. They should specifically evaluate regulations and standards related to payment, health information technology, quality measurement and reporting, and professional and legal requirements for licensure.
Improving usability and relevance of health information technology. Health information technology (IT), including electronic health records, should be as user-friendly and easy to operate as possible to reduce burnout. Health IT vendors and health care organizations should deploy technologies to reduce documentation demands and automate non-essential tasks. In addition, federal policymakers and private sector health IT companies should collaborate to develop the infrastructure and processes that enable shared decision-making between clinicians and patients.