Physician Burnout: a Public Health Crisis March 13, 2019
We have written about physician burnout in the past, but according to a new report by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, our country is now facing a major medical and public health crisis because of how widespread the problem has become. In the new report titled “A Crisis In Health Care: A Call To Action On Physician Burnout,” the Harvard authors urge lawmakers and the public to pay attention to the extreme dangers associated with increasing rates of burnout presenting in healthcare workers.
What is “Physician Burnout” Exactly?
Physician burnout involves depersonalization, a diminished sense of personal accomplishment, and/or emotional exhaustion. Depersonalization is when someone begins to lose his or her sense of identity. In some cases, people experiencing depersonalization question their reality and are not be completely in control of their actions.
Physician burnout can cause a variety of problems, ranging from mild-to-severe. Here are just a few examples of how burnout affects the physical wellbeing – and lives – of American men, women, and children every day:
- Doctors spend too much time on work that does not directly benefit their patients. Although there are advantages to healthcare becoming digitized (which involves converting data into text, pictures, or sounds to be processed on computers), researchers believe that administrative tasks are a top contributor to increasing rates of burnout,
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) predicts that by the year 2025, there will be a shortage of almost 100,000 physicians (who are leaving the profession as a consequence of experiencing burnout), and:
- Medical mistakes. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States; almost 100,000 people die because of preventable medical mistakes each year. Physician burnout directly affects the health of the public, because physicians and nurses (and all other healthcare workers) who experience burnout are more likely to make mistakes on the job and/or be less involved in a patient’s care.
Numerous studies have already raised alarms over the dangerous nature of rising healthcare burnout rates. Now it is time for the medical system to implement effective programs that prevent the rates from continuing to grow, as well as to address current healthcare workers who are being affected by the lethal syndrome.
Recommendations for Limiting Physician Burnout
The Harvard report provides several recommendations on how to positively impact modern day physician burnout rates. Some examples of the recommendations include:
- An expansion of mental health care services for physicians, as well as encouraging physician participation in these services to effectively diagnose and manage symptoms of burnout;
- Increase interoperability. Quite simply, interoperability is the ability for different healthcare applications (like systems that store patient data, medication information, scheduling calendars, etc.) to communicate smoothly with one another. Increasing interoperability means less administrative work for physicians and other healthcare workers, and:
- The appointment of CWO workers, or chief wellness officers. Chief wellness officers are tasked with monitoring rates of burnout in healthcare settings (e.g. observing healthcare workers for signs and symptoms), as well as to meet with physicians and conduct assessments, and to implement effective interventions for limiting burnout.
Were You a Victim of Medical Malpractice because of Physician Burnout?
Our firm has represented victims of medical negligence and malpractice since 1947. Although everyone makes mistakes, when a doctor makes a preventable error the consequences can be permanent or deadly. If you have questions about a medical mistake and would like to speak with a lawyer, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
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