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Practice Rounds: Burnout and the Opioid Epidemic Linked?


How are the opioid epidemic and the rising rates of physician burnout linked? Also, how much more do white male doctors earn than their peers?

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our new weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Opioids and Burnout Linked?

Physician burnout and opioids are two well-known problems in healthcare, but are they linked? Stephen A. Adelman, a psychiatrist and director of Physician Health Services, Inc. (PHS), a subsidiary of the Massachusetts Medical Society, writes to Harvard Health Publications that it's very possible. As the Director of PHS, overseeing 45,000 physicians, Dr. Adelman says he has seen this connection firsthand. He says given the pressures from third parties - including, "faceless managed-care bureaucrats; managers; IT consultants; quality measurement gurus; and … patients" - that have led to burnout, it's possible physicians don't have the time or "emotional fortitude" to explore non-opioid alternatives.

Post-Acute Networks in Focus

A new survey of health system executives indicates they will be focusing on post-acute networks over the next three years, Medical Economics reports. The survey, conducted by Premier Inc., surveyed 82 health system leaders - 95 percent of them said they expected to devote significant time to "growing, managing and refining these networks." Joining these networks could risk physicians' independence, Marni Jameson, executive director of the Association of Independent Doctors, said to Medical Economics.

White Male Doctors Earn the Most

According to new research in the British Medical Journal, white male physicians earn 35 percent more than black male physicians and 40 percent more than white female physicians. Citing survey statistics from more than 43,000 white male, 1,650 black male, 15,000 white female, and 1,250 black female physicians, researchers say white men have an adjusted median income of $253,000 a year; $188,230 for black men; $163,234 for white females; and $152,784 for black females. Characteristics of practice and specialty made no difference, researchers said.

Recommendations for Zika Repellent

With growing concern over the Zika virus in the U.S., pediatricians might notice more patients inquiring about insect repellants, Contemporary Pediatrics reports. According to the CDC, "repellants should have one of the following active ingredients: DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide); picaridin (2-[2-hydroxyethyl]-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropylester); IR3535 (ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate); or oil of lemon eucalyptus (para-menthane-diol)." One pediatric and dermatology expert interviewed said that DEET "has demonstrated that it is the best insect repellent humans have ever invented."

Quote of the Week:

Burnout and the Big Mac

"Burnout is akin to a diet consisting of Big Macs and gallons of ice cream: both are detrimental to overall health, but can be readily avoided if you are aware of their harm and have a pre-determined plan to ensure you don't succumb to the temptation."

Mary Christ, MD

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