Evidence supports that physician dissatisfaction and burnout is a serious and growing problem. According to the Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report 20151, US physicians suffer more burnout than other American workers. At the top of the list are our front-line physicians—Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, and Internal Medicine, ranging from 50 to 53 percent of responding physicians in each of those specialties. Medscape Psychiatry2 reports that “45% of primary care physicians would quit medicine immediately if they had the financial means.” These statistics may be alarming to some, but it is the reality for those front-line physicians and healthcare administrators tasked with recruiting and retaining physicians. Physician burnout will not only impact individual practices and healthcare systems, but it also is likely to have dire consequences on our entire healthcare infrastructure.
The good news is that physician burnout is not going unnoticed. It’s top of mind among healthcare professionals who are publishing numerous articles, focusing on identifying root causes and proposing potential solutions. I recently attended a national healthcare conference and found issues related to physician burnout to be hot topics. Physicians and healthcare administrators, visiting our TeamHealth Medical Call Center exhibit, were searching for options and discussing potential solutions that would provide some relief to what they referred to as their overwhelmed and overworked providers.
What benefits and programs are offered to address physician burnout and to help physicians reduce stress and improve work-life balance? To find answers, I searched the Internet to see what perks are offered, either in the recruiting process to attract top talent or used to retain physicians. My findings included the important, but standard benefits, such as different types of insurances, continuing education reimbursement, relocation allowances, signing bonuses, etc. I did not find any benefits or offerings that would positively impact work-life balance and address stress, which is a major cause of burnout among physicians.
During one of the informal huddles at our conference exhibit, someone mentioned the idea of using afterhours telephone triage as a recruiting benefit. Once this idea was presented to the group, consisting of providers and administrators, it was as if a light bulb turned on for several participating in the discussion. Some said they already planned to implement after hours telephone nurse triage to bring relief to their physicians, but they never thought to mention it during the recruiting process or list it as a benefit. A health system CEO in the group told us that he’s been courting a physician for some time, but he hasn’t been able to get a commitment, and he believed that freeing her from afterhours call duty could make the difference. Several administrators said that their younger physicians have been asking for this afterhours support and were not expecting for afterhours on call to be part of the job.
Being able to offer the provider flexibility to attend family events, get an uninterrupted night’s sleep, and know that they can confidently make leisure time plans is a powerful benefit. For the facility, it can improve provider performance when they have had adequate rest and leisure time. The performance of a rested provider will be reflected in patient satisfaction and quality of care delivered. Carving the 24/7 access out of the provider’s core responsibilities is a powerful physician recruitment and retention game changer.
1Carol Peckham, Medscape Physican Lifestyle Report 2015, January 26, 2015.
2Herdley O. Paolini, PhD; Burt Bertram, EdD, LMFT, LMCH; Ted Hamilton, MD, MBA, “Antidotes to Burnout: Fostering Physician Resiliency, Well-Being, and Holistic Development,” Medscape Psychiatry, April 19, 2013.
Jeanne Griffin, Director of Business Development at TeamHealth Medical Call Center, holds a marketing degree from the University of Tennessee and 20-plus years of sales and business development experience. Throughout her career, Jeanne’s mission has been to work with each prospective client as a potential partner and ensuring that each client receives high-quality services that are customized for each client’s specific needs, thereby improving client satisfaction as well as the client’s customer/patient experience.