Burnout

The Arch Collaborative Summit: Preventing Physician Burnout

At the beginning of the Arch Collaborative Summit session on preventing physician burnout, Taylor Davis of KLAS said, “It’s ironic that we’re doing the burnout panel at 4:00 p.m. after a very long day.” Everyone chuckled at that, but despite the irony, the conference room was bursting at the seams, full of people eager to hear what the selected panel members had to say about preventing burnout.

Burnout is a very real concern in many fields but especially in healthcare. It affects a large portion of providers, who often work long, grueling shifts and deal with the stresses that come naturally with a job in the healthcare field. KLAS has already written posts on the impact of the EMR on physician burnout and other causes of burnout, but during the Arch Collaborative Summit, KLAS asked Thomas Moran, Paul Testa, Vicki Laurie, and Neal Chawla to share their thoughts and best practices on the subject.

Balancing Personalization

In general, physicians like being physicians, but they hate the systems that are made for them to use. One way to combat that animosity is through personalization, which Thomas Moran described as “tools that help physicians do their jobs a little bit better.”

Personalization can give providers a sense of control over systems. While there should be a basic setup for those systems, personalization enables people to move things in a way that doesn’t interrupt their cognitive workflow.

But personalization is more than just allowing providers to do what they want. Paul Testa explained that organizations also need to regularly round on providers and hear their concerns. If organization can’t accommodate all requests, using a “no, but . . .” approach can be helpful. Personalization can’t solve all problems, but communicating with providers and responding to their concerns can mitigate a lot of frustration.

Personalization can also be a hindrance. A major cause of burnout comes from people unnecessarily doing things in several different ways. When Neal Chawla was reviewing what WakeMed does to increase physician satisfaction, he emphasized the importance of finding an interplay between standardization, customization, and local autonomy.

Finding the appropriate balance is key with personalization. Vicki Laurie explained, “Part of personalization is realizing that when you’re trying to solve a problem, you may not get one tool that solves everything. You may need four or five tools.” For most organizations, there won’t be just one solution that solves all problems, and it may take time to find the right combinations.

Promoting Wellness

One of the overarching ideas of the session was that organizations need to consider provider wellness, not just provider burnout. The healthcare industry is putting so much focus on patient engagement and wellness because those things can lead to fewer issues down the road, and the same approach needs to be taken with the people who provide care.

The panel members’ organizations differentiate themselves by simply not allowing physicians to be overloaded like other organizations do. Part of that includes making sure that doctors are doing the right tasks. In recent years, clerical tasks that used to be done by other people started being done by providers. If providers are overwhelmed by tasks, removing or redistributing those tasks as needed can enable doctors do what they are trained to do and feel more productive. Thomas Moran said, “Doctors need to see themselves as valuable. The more they can think and analyze the data in front of them, the better they feel.”

Patients also remain an underutilized resource in eliminating physician burnout. As team-based care is used more and more, organizations should collaborate with patients and utilize patient engagement systems. Incentivizing patients to want to participate more can help alleviate some of the providers’ responsibilities.

Communicating with the providers and patients is integral to eliminating burnout, but organizations should make sure there is action and meaning behind promises. Vicki Laurie said, “It is too simplistic to say that you’re going to partner and hear the doctors’ voices.” Organizations that want to be trusted partners should seek to understand providers’ experiences. Once they do, they will be better equipped to create an environment that supports provider wellness.

Creating Success

Combating physician burnout should be a matter of prevention, not treatment.

While the panel members have made great strides in terms of physician wellness, they agreed that they aren’t amazing at eliminating burnout and that they aren’t doing anything that many other organizations aren’t doing as well. They have just found the multitude of things that worked for them and their providers.

 “It’s incredible how quickly you can get to the heart of what’s wrong,” Liz Johnson of Tenet Health said near the end of the session. “The reality is that I want to know what’s wrong.” That desire to communicate and help providers can go such a long way in terms of physician burnout. If organizations truly want to understand physicians’ struggles and invest the time to get rid of burnout, they will be successful.


     Photo Cred: Shutterstock, zEdward_Indy