Dr Kathleen Blake: Successful Clinician Burnout Programs Address Health System Problems

Burnout can impact how well a clinician connects with patients and makes medical decision, and programs that successfully address burnout start with leadership, said Kathleen Blake, MD, MPH, vice president for Performance Improvement at the American Medical Association.

Why does burnout need to be addressed and what are the impacts when it isn’t?
We know that clinician burnout is at a very high level. Our recent study shows it’s at least 50% and maybe rising; we will know that as our third study is completed. Why does it need to be addressed? It’s because clinicians who are burned out are less able to connect with their patients, are less able to get through their day. They may not be quite as good at making medical decisions and as a result, they’re trying to help themselves at a time when they also need to be helping their patients.

How are health systems and practices successfully addressing burnout?
I think the key word to the question is “successfully.” I would say that it’s a work in progress. And the key aspect to us is people are now paying attention to the problem, they know it exists. When I went through my medical training, the word burnout, I think, might not have even been mentioned once.

The way that successful programs, or committed programs, are addressing it is that it starts with leadership. And leadership at the C-suite and all the way down. Secondly, their measuring it. They don’t assume that the national numbers apply to them. But they use a variety instruments to measure burnout, and then they drill down into those instruments to be able to say, “For our institution/practice/organization, what seem to be the key contributors?” Why is that so important? It’s because, our research shows that about 80% of the, you might say, contributors to burnout are system problems. Those are the kinds of things that health systems can address.
Print | AJMC Printing...