30% of physicians meet criteria for burnout

Nearly 30 percent of physicians working at the Cleveland Clinic Health System were found to meet the criteria for overall burnout, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Physician burnout has become an increasingly newsworthy problem across many health systems, leading to adverse effects on both patient care and the physician’s health. In this study, researchers at Cleveland Clinic aimed to provide insight into exact rates of physician burnout in their own healthcare system.

Some 1,145 physicians were asked to complete the Maslach Burnout Inventory before a mandatory communication skills course. The Maslach Burnout Inventory measures burnout in the domains of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment while also providing data on overall burnout. Outcomes included leaving the organization, losses in productivity, receipt of ombudsman complaints and patient satisfaction with physician communication in inpatient, primary care and specialty care.

Results showed 339 of the 1,145 physicians (29.6 percent) met the criteria for overall burnout. A specific finding mentioned depersonalization as the major cause of patient dissatisfaction, providing evidence that patients are more negatively affected by depersonalization than emotional exhaustion.

“Our findings have important implications for physician retention and healthcare delivery that have resulted in enterprise-wide mobilization and coordination of efforts to improve physician well-being. Following our survey, leadership recognized burnout as a pressing issue and responded by organizing departmental town halls to identify specific needs,” concluded first author Amy K. Windover, PhD, of the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication at Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues. “They then established a Staff Experience team including six physicians, to implement outreach, clinical enhancements, professionalism, and well-being and professional growth programming that comprehensively supports physicians, explores practice efficiencies, and builds community in a way that reflects our group practice culture. Given similarities between Cleveland Clinic and other major health systems, routine assessment of burnout by health care organizations is warranted to identify the need for additional individual and organizational support.”