This article originally appeared in MedCity News.
“When all of the scheduled patients show up it makes work unbearable. Taking a break to use the bathroom or eat is then a luxury!”
So said one of the employed physicians Geneia recently surveyed when asked, “What other issues areas are important to consider when employers of physicians are prioritizing workplace programs to address physician burnout and stress?”
In October, Geneia released part one of results of a national physician survey commissioned to identify solutions to epidemic levels of physician burnout and dissatisfaction among employed doctors. The online survey of 401 employed physicians showed physician burnout levels remain quite high. It also demonstrated physicians want to be treated like the valued employees they are.
The survey findings about physician dissatisfaction mirrored those from Geneia’s initial survey in 2015 and a follow-up survey in 2018, which found that the Physician Misery Index had increased to 3.94 out of 5.
Nearly all physicians (97 percent) agree with the following statements:
“Physician burnout and dissatisfaction are deeply connected to the data collection and other non-clinical demands that are placed on physicians. To address burnout employers of physicians need to put much greater emphasis on increasing the current allocation of time per patient that physicians spend with patients.”
“Curbing physician burnout is an absolutely critical and necessary component for employers to address. If employers of physicians do not do something quickly to sustain and keep physicians satisfied, we won’t have the quality workforce we need.”
The surprises in Geneia’s new physician survey
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the recent survey was the longing physicians have to be treated like the valued employees they are. A Geneia colleague aptly noted,
“We revere physicians, and our good health rests on their shoulders. Yet, too many aren’t afforded the basic employee benefits of bathroom breaks and time to eat during the work day.”
As Geneia’s president, I know the desire to have enough time and support to do one’s job is an issue many employers – including me – struggle with, as is employee engagement.
While this realization is sobering, it also is encouraging.
As one who has studied physician dissatisfaction for more than five years, I know it’s a complex issue, and there’s no silver bullet to restore the joy of medicine. Undoubtedly, EHRs remain a well-deserved lightning rod for physicians, and the health IT industry needs to step up its commitment to improving the usability of technology, but there also are other ways healthcare organizations can help to improve physician satisfaction.
Seven ways employers of physicians can help restore the joy of medicine:
The findings in Geneia’s 2019 survey of employed physicians led us to conclude there are seven solutions – in addition to improving the EHR – that healthcare organizations can use to help address physician burnout, including:
1. Listen. Ensure physicians know they’ve been heard.
The employed physicians we surveyed said one good way to do this is to put more purpose, clarity and intention behind physician engagement surveys in the workplace. Offer concrete examples of ways the survey results have or will impact change.
2. Offer professional development opportunities, not just EHR training.
Ninety percent of surveyed physicians said it’s important for employers to offer professional opportunities for physicians (43 percent very important.) Nearly as many physicians (86 percent) agree that:
‘Offering a robust professional development program is a meaningful way for employers to show they care about the satisfaction and professional advancement of their team members.’
3. Carefully consider ways to give physicians the option to have more time with patients who have complex healthcare needs.
While it’s true physicians, especially those who work in primary care, would like more time with all patients, the intensity of physician feeling is stronger for patients with complex healthcare needs. A near unanimous 97 percent of respondents say that it is important for employers of physicians to increase the current allocation of time per patient (64% very important – 33% somewhat important).
Americans are aging and are sicker. With half of American adults diagnosed with one chronic condition and more than 25 percent having two or more chronic conditions, chances are these patients need more time with their primary care physician than a 10-20 minute office visit to avoid preventable trips to the emergency department and hospital.
For complete survey results, and the rest of the seven solutions to address physician burnout, I invite you to download the comprehensive report.
Our complete report includes a deeper dive into the:
- costs of physician burnout
- trend toward physician employment
- professional development interests of physicians