URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/podcast/transcript040317.html

To Your Health: NLM Update Transcript

Addressing physician burnout: 04/03/2017

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

While there are diverse reasons for and implications of physician burnout in the U.S., some underlying problems can be addressed, suggests a viewpoint recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The viewpoint suggests more than 50 percent of physicians in the U.S. currently experience burnout, or a syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism and decreased professional effectiveness. Since the viewpoint's three authors note the first national studies of physician burnout did not occur until 2011, it is difficult to compare current to past levels.

The viewpoint's three authors explain diverse factors contribute to physician burnout. They write (and we quote): "Excessive workload, clerical burden and inefficiency in the practice environment, a loss of control over work, problems with work-life integration, and erosion of meaning in work are all factors' (end of quote).

More specifically, the authors (who are physicians from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN) note today's doctors are more burdened with: increased clerical duties associated with the introduction of electronic medical records and patient portals; new regulations regarding e-prescriptions; an expanding base of new medical knowledge; and unprecedented external scrutiny from ongoing health care quality assessments that include patient satisfaction scores, and cost containment measures.

Most importantly, the authors emphasize physician burnout has significant repercussions for the U.S. health care delivery system. The authors write (and we quote): 'Physician burnout has been linked to self-reported errors, turnover, and higher mortality ratios in hospitalized patients' (end of quote).

Yet, the authors emphasize there are diverse strategies to address physician burnout and possibly reverse current trends. Among many examples, the authors suggest turning over some tasks in clinical documentation to trained non-physicians.

The authors also suggest an end to (and we quote): 'Requirements by insurers that physicians perform and document unnecessary elements of care to justify billing codes that do not contribute to good medical care...' (end of quote).

The authors encourage insurers and other clinical care payers to develop a more efficient preapproval process for tests, medications, and procedures. The authors additionally note that measures of patient engagement and well being should be included in institutional performance measures in hospitals and clinics across the U.S.

Incidentally, it surprised us that the latter is not routine across the country.

The authors emphasize that part of the solution also lies with increased efforts among physicians to take better care of themselves and be more aware of the impact of burnout on the quality of care.

The authors conclude (and we quote): 'Meaningful progress will require collaborative efforts by national bodies, health care organizations, leaders, and individual physicians, as each is responsible for factors that contribute to the problem and must own their part of the solution' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, the authors imply but do not directly address the importance of continuing stress in undermining a physician's professional health, which is an underlying challenge for both patients and physicians alike. The American Psychological Association provides a helpful introduction to different types of routine stress within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's stress health topic page.

The American Heart Association adds helpful information about stress management also within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's stress health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's stress health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available within the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about stress as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's stress health topic page, please type 'stress' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'stress (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov additionally has health topic pages devoted to anxiety and mental health.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you! Please join us here next week and here's to your health!