Page 10

BulletinNovDec2017

Executive Director’s Desk A National Health Crisis Debbie Zorian DZorian@hcma.net “The most important patient we have to take care of is the one in the mirror.”  Robert Wah, M.D. I recently attended a full day Amer-ican Association of Medical Society Executives meeting where the topic of physician wellness was paramount. It is believed that few people realize just how much stress physicians experi-ence on a daily basis. From the myriad stresses associated with getting into and graduating medical school, to clinical training in a hospital, to dealing with emotions inherent in doctor-patient relationships, to guarding against wrongful malpractice suits, to unreasonable workloads and extended hours, not to mention the continual in-creased burdens our healthcare system imposes on physicians, it’s easy to understand the effect mounting stress can have on them. The practice of medicine evolved into a business many years ago. Not being able to truly focus on the practice of qual-ity medicine, more physicians have become frustrated by the direction the system has taken, their stress becomes chronic, and burnout is inevitable. Statistics show that physicians experience burnout at a high-er rate than ever before. More than half of physicians, across all specialties in our country, experience burnout in one or more ways. For example, when a primary care physician in a large group practice may have as many as 35 patients a day for 15 minutes each in order to keep the organization financially afloat, it’s easy to understand how their lack of autonomy and chronic stress can escalate into subsequent burnout. Some sur-veys show burnout rates over 70% with the highest in emer-gency room physicians. A report, produced by the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association, states that while burnout rates for physi-cians increase year after year they are much more serious than “just feeling tired.” Burnout is an experience of emotional ex-haustion, depersonalization, and feelings of low achievement and decreased effectiveness. It takes a toll on physicians, their patients, and their practices. According to a report from the authors of Physician Burn-out Is A Public Health Crisis, “The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased per-formance measurement, the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of EHRs, and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered workflows and patient interaction. The result is that many previously well-adjusted and engaged physicians have been stressed to the point of burnout, prompting them to retire early, reduce the time they devote to clinical work, or leave the profession altogether.” My online research continually confirmed the veracity of this very critical issue. No matter what provokes it or how it manifests, the main cause of physician burnout is workplace stress. While patients often complain that modern-day medi-cal practices aren’t set up to prioritize their best interests, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that these same practices aren’t prioritizing the quality of well-being for physicians, either. And the further physicians get from the patient care and positive re-sults that motivated them to enter medical practice in the first place, the more difficult it becomes for them to shed that stress. The consequences of physician burnout are significant and threaten our country’s healthcare system, including patient safe-ty, quality of care, and healthcare costs. On the personal side, burnout can evidence itself through shattered relationships, al-cohol and substance abuse, depression, and even suicide. Ap-proximately 400 physicians take their own lives every year in our country. The physician suicide rate is double compared to those in other professions. As doctors continue to experience burnout at an alarming rate, suicide rates will increase as well. While the problem itself isn’t new, what’s changed in recent years is greater willingness to acknowledge it. Psychoanalyst, Claudia Luiz, believes the problem is not self-care, but rather knowing self-care is needed. There are now several programs and resources aimed at addressing physician wellness. Your HCMA is researching the feasibility of implementing a Physician Wellness Program (PWP) for its members. The program will provide completely confidential counseling and coaching services at no cost to members, burnout prevention workshops and educational sessions on various aspects of phy-sician wellness, as well as online resources. Prior to launching our PWP, the HCMA will hold a Burn-out- Proof Live Workshop on March 29, 2018. The presenter, Dr. Dike Drummond, is a national keynote speaker for many (continued) 10 HCMA BULLETIN, Vol 63, No. 4 – November/December 2017


BulletinNovDec2017
To see the actual publication please follow the link above