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Culture, Leadership Can Help Alleviate Physician Burnout

Culture, Leadership Can Help Alleviate Physician Burnout

In just four years, the rate of physicians who experience more than one factor of burnout has gone up from 46 percent to 54 percent, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic.

To that point, William Jessee, MD, senior medical advisor at Integrated Healthcare Strategies and former president of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), just has one question: "Will it reach 100 percent?"

Jessee may only be half kidding when he asks that question. The truth is healthcare is experiencing a major problem with physician burnout, Jessee said, while noting the rates of disenfranchised physicians is higher than any other educated profession.

"Lawyers [and] accountants … don’t seem to have high burnout rates that less highly educated individuals do, so in general, if you have more education, you're less likely to burnout. But that does not apply to MDs and DOs," he said.

In general, only 28 percent of the U.S. workforce said it's burned out. This, Jessee said, puts the physician burnout problem into perspective. Jessee shared insight on how organizations can combat the burnout problem with culture and leadership during a session at the MGMA’s annual conference, held in Anaheim, Calif.

William Jessee, MDWilliam Jessee, MD
To start, Jessee identified the causes of burnout among physicians. More often than not, the work environment — not age, specialty, or another personal characteristic — is the core problem. Physicians, he said, are frustrated by lack of control over processes that affect them and a lack of alignment with leadership. Other factors contributing to burnout include poor relationships with the care team and the dreaded EHR.

"I'm a fan of the EHR … [but] how they've been deployed and the support we've offered to clinicians have created an additional burden," Jessee said. He noted that because of documentation requirements, the EHR is interfering with physicians' work-life balance and ruining their relationship with patients. He recommended the use of scribes to thwart this problem, saying they can increase productivity and revenue. "You can actually see more patients using a scribe, far in excess of what you are paying them." They also allow the physician to work directly with the patient, rather than staring at a computer.

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