the impact of physician burnout

Exploitation and Cost of Poor Quality

A recent opinion piece in the N.Y. Times was the freshest take on physician and nurse burnout I’ve read in a while. The writer described the unique elasticity of healthcare:

“In a factory, if 30 percent more items were suddenly dropped onto an assembly line, the process would grind to a halt… But in health care there is a wondrous elasticity — you can keep adding work and magically it all somehow gets done. The nurse won’t take a lunch break if the ward is short of staff members. The doctor will “squeeze in” the extra patients.”

Providers Overworked

Healthcare systems are well aware of the work ethic that drove physicians and nurses to their careers in the first place and exploit this with impunity.

Healthcare can’t adequately be compared to manufacturing. Physicians and nurses are directly responsible for the lives of patients. That’s a hefty responsibility. The system can keep heaping additional burdens upon physicians and nurses, and the work will “magically” get done, but at great cost to care providers’ personal well-being as well as clinical outcomes

Between 40 – 60% of physicians are burned out. Burnout is often associated with self-destructive and disruptive behaviors such as substance abuse, increased interpersonal conflicts, fractured relationships and poor quality of life. Other symptoms include depression, withdrawal, suicidal ideation and tragically, suicide. A new study lead by Stanford University researchers found physician burnout is at least equally responsible for medical errors as unsafe medical workplace conditions, if not more so.

Between 250,000 and 440,000 people die every year due to medical mistakes.

Quantifying the Impact

An effective way to draw attention to the issue is quantifying the impact of the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) in your healthcare organization. COPQ are those costs associated with providing poor quality healthcare.

A 2008 study revealed that COPQ was estimated to be about $720 billion in the U.S. healthcare system.

Is there someone in the organization quantifying, in real dollars, the financial impact of medical errors, rework, litigation, settlements, payouts, hospital-acquired conditions, value-based purchasing-related lost reimbursement dollars, physician and nurse turnover, community reputation and loss of market share, reduced referrals, declining patient experience, etc. into a single composite measure: “The Cost of Poor Quality”?

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Categories : Blog

About Author

Stephanie Sargent

As the Vice-President of Product Development & Quality, Stephanie oversees the continued development of the Physician Empowerment Suite©, and ensures the ongoing growth and success of the Suite and other related SE Healthcare programs. Stephanie is a seasoned clinical and Lean Six Sigma professional with more than 22 years of experience in health care. As a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, she is skilled in identifying clinical and operational performance gaps to decrease professional liability risk, meet regulatory and accreditation requirements, improve clinical quality and patient outcomes and reduce waste and inefficiencies.