By Dena K. Hubbard, MD, FAAP
Recently, “A Crisis in Healthcare: A Call to Action on Physician Burnout” was published from collaboration by the Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Global Health Institute. The article states, “It is not that physicians are inadequately “tough enough” to undertake their work, but that the demands of their work too often diverge from and indeed contradict their mission to provide high-quality care.” The call to action includes the following recommendations:
- Short term: improved access to expand health services for physicians including mental health to prevent and treat symptoms of burnout in the short term. This should come without fear of loss of confidentiality or punitive measures.
- Medium term: significant reform to the EMR (recognizing different specialties and units have different needs) and reducing burden of documentation and measurement placed on physicians by payers and health care organizations. (Decreasing duplication of work, inefficiencies, and administrative tasks that do little if anything to advance the goals of patient care). In my humble opinion, this is where we would see the biggest impact on the crisis of physician burnout.
- Long term: appointment of executive-level leadership for physician wellness at institution and system levels.
The article calls on the Federation of State Medical Boards and all boards of registration of medicine; state physician health programs; the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the HHS; Health plans, insurers, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance; EHR vendors; hospitals, health systems, and provider organizations; medical schools and residency programs. As physicians we need to be at the table to address the front-line issues and part of creating solutions to this crisis.
Advocacy for the profession of medicine and healthcare providers will lead to better care for our pediatric patients, and help providers be more adaptable and positive in response to change and adversity in healthcare. The solution includes supporting providers individually while simultaneously analyzing and addressing the system issues at the institutional and national levels. Healthcare system level changes are required in order to make a sustainable impact on the incidence of burnout in healthcare providers. As instructed on every flight, “Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”