Lifestyle & Wellness

Burnout: A Serious Threat to the Healthcare System

Written by
Cherry Health

Defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity,” the phenomenon is strikingly widespread.

According to the CMA National Physician Health Survey, 30% of physicians and residents report high levels of burnout, with medical residents, women, and early-career physicians at most risk.


Cue: The pandemic. With two years of COVID-19 and the intense pressure it’s placed on physicians under our belt, awareness of burnout is at an all-time high. However, action is still required to mitigate burnout’s insidious effects on the healthcare system.

In the next two blog posts in our series of three, we’ll discuss causes of physician burnout and provide actionable steps to address physician burnout in your medical practice, so that your patients and physicians receive the care they deserve.

Interventions to Prevent and Reduce Physician Burnout

COVID-19 brought burnout into focus, however, the phenomenon is nothing new. In recent years, there has been a rallying cry amongst the medical community for medical institutions to take action to prevent burnout.


In 2019, the Ontario Medical Association launched a Burnout Task Force. The force created a detailed report that proposed three systemic changes aimed at eliminating burnout and encouraging the development of a system to promote physician wellness.



Three strategies to reduce systemic burnout:

1. Streamline and Reduce Required Documentation and Administrative Work

A 2020 survey6 from Nova Scotia found that physicians spend an average of 10.6 hours per week on administrative tasks. Interestingly, 24% of that work did not need to be completed by medical doctors. To avoid spreading physicians too thin, administrative tasks must be streamlined in medical offices.

Recommendations:
  • Hire medical scribes to complete electronic documentation requirements.
  • Harness technological innovations to simplify administrative demands, such as DoctorCare’s intelligent billing, Dragonspeak’s transcription software to streamline charting, or Cognisant MD’s patient engagement platform to enable patients to manage some of the work.


2. Increase Work-life Balance by Making Organizational Policy Changes.

Unfortunately, due to the structural challenges facing the healthcare system, physicians often struggle to attain work- life balance. In fact, for each additional hour that a physician spends working each week, the risk of burnout increases 3%. For each additional night or weekend they’re on call, there’s a 3-9% increase.

Recommendations:

Encourage flexible working arrangements, such as part-time hours, job-sharing, leave of absences, and modified schedules. Explore strategies to promote work-life balance, such as time banking.


3. Provide Institutional Supports for Physician Wellness

Since burnout is an occupational phenomenon, the onus rests on the workplace to provide support for physicians.

Recommendations:

Foster a workplace culture that prioritizes physician wellness by leading with respect and listening to the concerns of physicians. Check-in regularly with physician burnout levels using validated tools and implementing necessary changes to organizational structure when required.




You can be a part of the solution to systemic burnout


By executing the OMA’s strategies into your healthcare practice, and cultivating a healthy workplace environment for your medical professionals and patients.

Burnout is a public health crisis that, left unaddressed, threatens the well-being of both physicians and the patients that depend on their care.

To prevent the insidious effects of burnout from disrupting healthcare, medical organizations and the stakeholders that support them must commit to building a sustainable system that promotes physician wellness.

Cherry Health is a physician-founded app that supports medical professionals looking for an enhanced version of work-life balance. Download the app for free and discover locum opportunities that allow you to take control of your schedule and leave burnout in the rearview mirror, once and for all.


For virtual mental health services, try Focus Mental Wellness today!


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