Physicians are 15 times more likely to experience symptoms of burnout than professionalism any other field.
This comes directly from a report by Allscripts, one of the leading electronic health record (EHR) developers in the industry. The study was conducted to see how their products were affecting the healthcare professionals using them on a daily basis and the numbers were staggering.
Doctors—or all healthcare professionals for that matter—have taken on a heavy caseload since President Bush started a transformation with his Healthcare Information Technology Plan. Good intent was certainly there—reduced charting errors, increased patient safety—but at what expense?
Feeling the effects of an increased workload
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, there is a strong correlation between physician burnout and medical error. Through their research, they have found that about 9% of physicians who have experienced burnout have made at least one major medical error.
Cases of burnout have increased significantly since the rise of EMR. Prior to electronic medical records (EMR), a provider’s day revolved around patient care. When the EMR was adopted in 2004, it brought on additional tasks to a clinician’s already heavy workload. Patient care was affected and this trickled down to nursing and ancillary staff using the system as well.
Clinicians throughout the country have felt the effects of their additional charting tasks and the learning curve associated. Some have—and continue to—struggle through their processes. Patient care is falling at the wayside and physicians and their staff are feeling even more pressure as their patient satisfaction drops.
This isn’t only affecting patients, though. According to the same NCBI study mentioned above, suicide rates among doctors have now risen. The rates among male doctors is 1.41 times higher than males in the general population. For females, that number is 2.27 times higher.
Providing relief is vital
Many clinicians who feel the effects of burnout—stress, lack of energy, irritability—are too busy to act to cure themselves. Ironically enough, the life of a doctor is often too busy to leave availability for self-examination. Unfortunately, if this trend continues, clinicians themselves will be the ones feeling the medical effects of their workload.
Those who enter the field of medicine typically do so because they want to care for patients. In order to restore the joy that was once shared, processes will need to change and relief will need to be provided.
To hinder the growth of this epidemic, several actions can be taken:
- Help the mindfulness of the clinician, possibly with monthly focus meetings
- Provide scribes to decrease workload
- Get them emotional support and treatment for burnout
- Offload non-essential tasks to other staff members
Decrease burnout and increase patient care
If clinicians continue at their current pace, the effects of burnout will only get worse. It is important that all of us in the field of medicine act quickly to help preserve our clinicians and to bring them the documentation and emotional support they need to get back to what it is they do best: caring for patients.