Clinician burnout is a public crisis that demands urgent action, according to a new Spok survey on the prevalence of clinician burnout. In April 2019, Spok asked 474 clinical staff members at hospitals and health systems across the U.S. their insights on clinician burnout. The survey reveals 92% of clinicians called burnout “a public health crisis,” yet many report their organizations are not implementing recommended strategies to address it.
Understand The Impact of Clinician Burnout
Burnout is often the term healthcare professionals use to capture all associated symptoms including occupational stress, depression, career dissatisfaction, and moral distress or injury. Research shows burnout has negative effects on healthcare systems and ultimately the quality of patient care. Moreover, it impacts the health of clinicians and contributes to the loss of practicing physicians. Not only is the rate of occupational stress among clinicians increasing, research also shows its effects lead to more expensive healthcare and less satisfied patients.
Financial Impact of Clinician Burnout to Healthcare Industry
Turnover reduced productivity, and other factors related to burnout costs the healthcare industry between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion annually. Replacing a physician can cost an organization from more than $250,000 to almost $1 million. At the same time, the American Association of Medical Colleges estimates a projected shortage of 120,000 doctors by 2030. Similarly, the average cost of turnover for a nurse ranges from more than $37k to almost $60k. In 2017, research projected one million RNs will retire by 2030.
Increased & Ineffective Technology Key Driver of Clinician Burnout
When asked whether increased or ineffective technology contributes to the risk of clinician burnout, the vast majority (90% of all respondents) strongly or moderately agreed. And 89% of respondents said burdensome or increased workload (not related to direct patient care) is the biggest factor that contributes to this risk. Despite these concerns, when asked what prevents clinicians from seeking help for potential symptoms of burnout, the No. 1 obstacle cited by respondents (65%) was that their organization lacks institutional attention and resources. When asked how often their organization leaders discuss burnout, 47% said rarely or never.
Clinicians Call for EHR Usability Improvement
Approximately 40% of the respondents indicated that none of these strategies are being implemented at their organizations. Only 30% of respondents said their organizations are improving EHR usability, 20% reported mental health treatment or support is available, and 13% have a chief wellness officer or equivalent. The survey asked the clinicians if the suggested solutions could help address the risk of burnout in their own organizations. A resounding 95% believe improving EHR usability will be at least somewhat helpful.
3 Solutions to Reduce Risk of Clinician Burnout
The Crisis in Healthcare paper, published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, suggests three solutions to reduce the risk of clinical burnout: support proactive mental health treatment and support, improve EHR usability and appoint an executive-level chief wellness officer.
Why It Matters
“Clinician burnout is a complicated issue. The phrase is often used to capture associated symptoms like occupational stress, depression, moral injury, and many other terms,” explains Teresa Niblett, RN-BC, director of clinical informatics at Peninsula Regional Medical Center and member of the Spok nursing advisory council. “The pursuit of the triple aim—improving care experiences, bettering the health of populations, and reducing the costs of healthcare—results in many variables that increase pressures on healthcare workers. I am not surprised 92% of clinicians in this survey called burnout a public health crisis. It validates expanding the triple aim to a quadruple aim by adding the goal to reduce clinician burden.”