Over 50% of physicians report symptoms of burnout. This high level tells us that addressing wellness at the personal level is not enough. It speaks to a systemic rather than individual etiology. Organizations have begun to recognize it is in their best interest to keep their physicians happy. Losing even one physician to burnout is expensive. In addition, burned out physicians are liabilities. Mistakes increase. Productivity decreases. Patient satisfaction decreases. Ripple effects touch other members of the team, which leads to further burnout. If for no other reason, physician wellness at the organizational level matters since it affects the bottom line.
Fixes at the institutional level have primarily focused on time. Physicians have too little time to do what we need to do and to do it well. The EMR is regularly blamed as a time sink. Re-engineering the tools, environment, and systems of care delivery can help us save time. However, its not only a lack-of-time issue. What we do with our time also matters. We need systems that allow each person to work at the highest level of their training. Doctors can practice medicine while other team members do what they do best.
Finally, we need to acknowledge the inherent conflict between the business of medicine and the practice of medicine—something physicians wear every day as we work with our patients. Making these changes at the institutional level requires a change of institutional values to include physician wellness.