Physician burnout is real and creates real problems for stressed out hospital systems. Burnout impacts healthcare costs and patient outcomes. Burnout and stress feed on each other. They impact the economics of hospital operations, large or small. Burnout and stress create a downward spiral of successive failures that become progressively more severe. This is when patient care can become dangerous.
First, let’s examine physician burnout. Then we can focus on solutions. The root of most cases of physician burnout is money. It is the source of the disconnection between administration and physicians. It is the reason quality metrics fail.
Hospital administration has to match operating revenues to operating expenses. In today’s environment, it gets more difficult year after year. All third party payers have ratcheted down payments, increased penalties, thereby, reducing revenues. The commercial payers have shifted more of the costs of care to unwitting patients and their families through higher deductibles and greater copayments. As a result, self-pay balances are growing and aging at every hospital in the country. Self-pay is, at best slower, and, at worst, generates less revenue. At the same time, operating expenses continue to grow. Administration needs to do more with less. The result is that expectations exceed ability and capacity.
The impact of this scenario on physicians is clear. In an effort to control costs, a hospital will use two physicians when three are required. Physicians are expected to see more patients. Physicians feel rushed. Patients feel short changed and complain about long waits and rushed care. And, physicians get the brunt of this frustration. Patients complain to the person in front of them, the physician, not the administrator.
The outcome is medical staff turnover. Good doctors leave. Hospital reputations are tarnished. The cycle needs to be broken to avoid the never-ending downward spiral. Easier said than done. Administration has to start with physician staffing plan, and like all plans, effective execution is essential. The first step in planning and execution is to identify a staffing partner that will invest alongside you.
The key elements of investment are leadership and dedication. Strong leaders attract dedicated physicians. Dedicated physicians care about outcomes, get along with other members of the medical staff, become part of a team of professionals, and engage in honest communications.
Your first step in finding the right locum physician for your hospital is to find the staffing partner with recognized physician leadership to work with you to build and implement your physician staffing plan.