The quality of care in your health care organization is an essential part of creating an excellent patient experience. A study published by the Journal of Internal Medicine has shown that physician well-being greatly influences the quality of care that patients receive. Physician distress has been associated with decreased patient care practices and a doubled risk of medical errors. When your staff is in distress, that translates into many problems for all of the parties involved.
Unpleasant Bedside Manner
Irritability, curtness, and other negative behaviors are more likely to come through when a physician is burnt out. A distressed physician may rush a patient during the appointment or dismiss their comments and questions, leaving the patient without a full understanding of what's going on with their treatment plan.
Poor Judgement Calls
Stress and fatigue due to increased bureaucratic tasks or unhealthy work schedules can often lead to poor judgment calls on the physician's part. They may recommend incorrect treatments, make poor choices during time-sensitive situations, and fail to consider all of the patient's medical history in diagnostics. The wrong calls due to this distress can lead to a longer time before the patient's medical concern is resolved, further injury or illness, or possibly death.
Errors During Treatment
In a large national study published by Mayo Clinic in 2018, it was found that physicians experiencing one or more dimensions of distress are over two times as likely to report major medical errors than those not experiencing distress. The wrong number when it comes to pill dosing could have disastrous consequences for the patient. While nurses, pharmacists, and office staff may catch some of these errors, there is an increased risk when physicians are distressed.
Incorrect or Missing Paperwork
Bureaucratic tasks are just one of the factors that can have a negative impact on physician well-being and quality of care. Fatigued physicians may file the wrong forms or forget to fill out documentation at all. The patient may need to repeat information or go over the treatment plan because it's not in the file.
Failure to Adhere to Regulations
Regulations are in place for a reason, and if a physician falls out of compliance, it can spell trouble for your patients and your practice.
Late or Missing Days
In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information focusing on physician distress and well-being, burnout has been associated with high levels of turnover at hospitals and institutions. The patient quality of care drops dramatically if your health care organization is understaffed. Patients may have to wait longer, may not be able to see their preferred doctor, and could have difficulty getting an appointment that fits with their schedule at all.
Lack of Confidence in Decision Making
A distressed physician may second-guess all of their decisions. They may take much longer than average on patient visits double-checking all of their work, or consult with other doctors for every case. The patients may pick up on the physician's uncertainty and worry that they aren't getting the proper care.
Toxic Work Environment
The Journal of Internal Medicine has found that stress, depression, frustration, and other signs of physician distress lead to decreased job satisfaction and a toxic work environment. This impacts all of the staff members that are around the affected doctor. Their own satisfaction and engagement levels could go down, or they may start avoiding that physician entirely. This correlation between physician distress and decreased job satisfaction has also been found to negatively impact patients' satisfaction with their health care.
Improving Physician Wellness
Healthy and happy doctors are better providers, and that's why it's essential for health care organizations to take care of their employees. The first step on the path to better physician wellness is to find out how serious the problem is. Using the Well-Being Index gives you an objective look at the challenges that your practice is facing and the areas of most concern. Once you have a baseline established, you can move forward with treating the issue through systematic change to provide an increased experience for your providers and the best quality of care possible for your patients.