5 Ways Physician Burnout Affects the Institution


Physician burnout is a scary thing for a healthcare organization to think about, but you can't ignore its impact on your institution. Many factors can lead to this situation, such as an overwhelming amount of administrative work, long hours that prevent work-life balance, and a lack of personal satisfaction in work. Medical professionals don't practice in a vacuum, so these issues spill over in several ways.

Bad Judgment Calls

Medical professionals make countless judgment calls on a daily basis, sometimes in life-or-death situations. When physicians are burnt out, they could make a decision that leads to a poor patient outcome. The quality of care the patients receive also decreases. The doctors may fail to go over all of the available options for patients, or they may only give short answers to questions.
You need to address this scenario differently than you would for a physician who is making mistakes simply because of inexperience or another mitigating factor.

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Poor Attitude

Empathy and emotional intelligence also decrease when a doctor burns out. The most noticeable signs of this problem show in a doctor's bedside manner and the way the doctor treats colleagues. When they're suffering from burnout, physicians may act angry, defensive or cold to the people around them. A toxic workplace, poor work ethic, and personal problems cause long-lasting problems for your organization.

High Turnover

You invest a lot of resources in the physicians for your organization, so it's a large loss when you have high turnover rates. You may not lose doctors completely, but they could choose to drop down to a part-time basis. If a physician leaves and doesn't plan on coming back to your institution, you could lose hundreds of thousands filling the position again. The demand for doctors often exceeds the supply, so you also have to account for the time it takes to bring a new doctor in.

Lower Patient Satisfaction

Unless you're in a remote region or have a highly specialized practice, patients have more than one office to visit for their care. You need to keep patients coming through the doors, and you can't do that if burnt-out physicians are driving them away due to poor outcomes, bad attitudes, and errors.
Patients may need to come back multiple times to get the help they require. You won't get the top-rated reviews or referrals through their social networks if you have an ongoing physician burnout problem. Word gets around fast, and when people can get a better experience elsewhere, they're going to seek it out.

Higher Potential for Malpractice

You never want to have a malpractice lawsuit filed against your physicians or your institution. Since burnt-out physicians are more likely to make critical mistakes or poor judgment calls, you run the risk of having malpractice suits directed at your organization.
These cases also add to the stress that your physician is suffering from. If a malpractice suit occurs, you may end up with a self-perpetuating cycle in which the doctor gets more burnt out and makes even more mistakes.
Physician burnout is not going away on a system-wide level anytime soon, but you can make changes within your healthcare organization to help your staff. The numbers of burned-out doctors across all specialties are increasing, and addressing the most common risk factors will help you get on top of the problem so you can sustain long-term growth.

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