New research from the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst reports that physician burnout is a problem in 83 percent of healthcare organizations.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines physician burnout as “a long-term stress reaction. marked by emotional exhaustion, denationalization, and a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment.” Such burnout is increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S.
The Root of Burnout
While clinical and technological innovation drives the health care industry, doctors are more strained and overworked than ever. As burnout grows, the patient-physician experience is affected and causes a decrease in the quality of care.
The work of physicians is stressful in and of itself, but the main reasons for burnout can be attributed to insurance companies and administrators demanding greater documentation of patient care. The burden of documentation negatively affects doctors. It causes them to feel frustrated as they have less time to treat patients.
According to one study, doctors spend half of clinic appointments documenting care. The physician-patient relationship is grounded in one-on-one personal interaction. When a physician is unable to satisfy the need for interaction, it causes the physician to patient relationship to become damaged.
Another study compared the length of clinic notes in the U.S. to those in Canada, Australia, and Singapore. The study found that in other countries, the average length of a clinic note was 1,500 words. In the U.S., the length is triple. This length disparity reflects the profound stress on documentation that exists in the U.S. compared to other countries. It ultimately contributes to the growing physician burnout in the U.S.
Though technology and innovation have been beneficial in the medical world. There have been some exceptions. To foster change, we must address the elevated levels of physician burnout. The first step is assessing the reasons for such burnout. The next step is creating a more productive environment for physicians, healthcare professionals, and, ultimately, patients.
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