A new set of guidelines and recommendations helps healthcare organizations establish policies and programs that promote physician well-being.
A charter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association promotes best practices and interventions designed to reduce physician burnout.
The charter was crafted to provide direction to health systems, hospitals, and physician practices seeking to increase the well-being of physicians, says Jonathan Ripp, MD, MPH, senior associate dean for well-being and resilience at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York.
"We're trying to provide a framework for policymakers, so they can put practices in place that align with physician well-being. We are seeing large systems adopting these types of practices and policies," he says.
Physician burnout should be a top priority for leaders and staff on moral and practical grounds, Ripp says.
"As a result of the work that physicians and other providers do, they have higher levels of depression and suicide. For this reason alone, physician well-being is important."
"But it's not just that. We now know that physician well-being has several ramifications for health systems: there's lower patient satisfaction, higher medical errors, increased physician turnover, decreased productivity, and increased malpractice," he says.
Physician turnover is financially draining, Ripp says. "If you take any intervention that decreases physician burnout, you are more likely to retain physicians at their practices. Probably one of the highest costs in healthcare is physician turnover. … Oftentimes when a physician leaves a practice, there is a several-month period when no one is in place and there is a shortfall of revenue."
To be effective, efforts to improve physician well-being must include the well-being of coworkers, he says. "We recognize that addressing physician well-being is not just about the physicians, it's about medical students, trainees, and all the members of the healthcare system."
Best practices and recommendations
The effort to draft the charter started in 2016. A medical and research group, the Collaborative for Healing and Renewal in Medicine, spearheaded the initiative. Ripp serves as co-chair of the group.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.