The Michigan State Medical Society in collaboration with Henry Ford Health System, Henry Ford Medical Group and Oakland County Medical Society hosted two workshops earlier this week focusing on a topic likely to affect many physicians and their practices: Physician and Team Burnout.
Christine A. Sinsky, MD, FACP, vice president for Professional Satisfaction at the American Medical Association (AMA) and point person for StepsForward, the AMA initiative providing doctors with strategies to improve clinical workflows and efficiencies within their practice, was the guest speaker.
"As physicians our goal has always been and will be to provide quality care to our patients, but with more demands outside of our offices and exam rooms, it can be hard to find balance," said David Krhovsky, MD, president of the Michigan State Medical Society. "The world of health care is continually changing, being able to meet the demands of regulatory changes as well as increased documentation requirements have created more obstacles for physicians and is making it harder to focus on the reason we became physicians -- providing high quality care to our patients and their families."
Physician burnout is now a full-blown epidemic in the United States. A recent survey released by the Mayo Clinic in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that 54 percent of physicians exhibit at least one symptom of burnout, a nearly 20 percent increase from 2011. Physician burnout rates are now more than twice as high as the rates observed in the general population and statistics suggest the gap is widening.
"It's important to recognize that the issue is widespread and growing at an alarming rate. There is research that demonstrates that a powerful way to decrease burnout is to reduce workplace chaos," said Christine Sinsky, MD, FACP. "When the environment doesn't feel disorganized or chaotic, physicians and staff can focus on patients."
With increased physician burnout rates comes the likelihood of mistakes, patient dissatisfaction and physician intent to leave practice. Improvements in clinical workflow, teamwork and communication are among the most potent anecdotes to burnout.
The long-term implications are problematic as well. In a medical system already facing a physician shortage and struggling to manage an influx of previously uninsured patients, the question of who will meet the looming needs of an aging population becomes difficult to answer.
Sinsky realizes that knowing where to start can be the hardest part for many physicians. "In addressing burnout and improving well-being, I would start two places. First, improve practice efficiency," said Sinsky. "This means reducing waste so there is more time for meaningful conversations with patients and more time to get home to family. The low hanging fruit in an outpatient setting is pre-visit planning and prescription management."
The Michigan State Medical Society is a professional association of more than 15,000 Michigan physicians. Its mission is to promote a health care environment which supports physicians in caring for, and enhancing the health of Michigan citizens through science, quality, and ethics in the practice of medicine. Please visit www.msms.org for more information.