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MGMA Stat poll: Practices are slow to adopt staff engagement programs to reduce burnout

MGMA Stat - February 20, 2018

Operations Management

Quality & Patient Experience

According to a new MGMA Stat poll, most practices don’t have a staff engagement program to reduce provider and staff burnout.

In a Feb. 20 poll with 1,030 applicable responses, 71% of respondents said their practices have not adopted staff engagement programs. Among the respondents with staff engagement programs, 9% indicated the program focused on physicians and 10% offered programs for physicians and staff.  An additional 10% indicated their organizations were in the process of implementing a staff engagement program.

The MGMA Stat poll illustrates that many practices have opportunity still to focus on the well-being of providers and staff and attempt to reduce burnout. Unfortunately, instances of provider burnout remain common, which could have dire consequences for healthcare professionals.

The gravity of this issue has been well-documented: According to a 2015 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, more than half of physicians stated that they encountered symptoms of burnout. Furthermore, a 2016 survey conducted for The Physicians Foundation revealed that nearly 49% of physicians either “always” or “often” have feelings of professional burnout. Conversely, only 11% stated that they never experience those feelings.

According to Stephen G. Ruby, MD, MBA, FCAP, in the MGMA webinar “Physician Burnout: Myths and Realities,” burnout is “often defined as a state of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion with the development of doubts about their abilities and the value of their work. People start to question everything they’re doing and whether or not they’re actually making a difference.”

Ruby states that the symptoms of burnout can include any combination of:
  • Exhaustion and inability to sleep
  • Low personal satisfaction
  • Decreased effectiveness
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Cynicism and pessimism
  • Increased irritability
Not only can staff engagement programs help alleviate some of the stressors responsible for burnout, they can improve provider camaraderie, retention rates and morale and commitment to patients, among other benefits.

For MGMA Stat poll respondents who stated that they provide staff engagement programs to reduce burnout, the most common offerings are regular out-of-office outings and retreats, counseling sessions and flex schedules. Among the most encouraging responses was one individual who said, “The doc is the ‘team lead’ and change agent. He/she reviews ‘anonymous’ emails with the leadership team to ‘recommend’ what activities might help reduce burnout such as group athletic events, additional time off, surprise events, team building activities and much more.”

Many respondents acknowledged the need for staff engagement programs, and reasons varied as to why their practices don’t offer them. Some of the most frequent responses were unfamiliarity with staff engagement programs, program is in the discussion stages, lack of time and/or money for program and promoting an overall culture, rather than a program, that helps reduce burnout. Surprisingly, some respondents stated that burnout wasn’t a concern in their practices.

Oftentimes, burnout can directly affect patients by reducing the pool of available physicians, extending wait times, and making it more likely that the providers and staff patients see are overworked. On a larger scale, provider burnout can lead to quality and safety issues, patient dissatisfaction, provider job dissatisfaction and turnover. Ultimately, for providers, it can adversely affect their health, which includes a higher suicide rate among physicians.

In response to this pervasive problem, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created a Well-being and Burnout portal in December 2017. The site is full of helpful resources, including videos and a self-assessment tool, for all physicians. In addition, the site includes a physician manual to foster well-being and curtail burnout in their practices and organizations.

In addition to the APA’s work, last month 130 U.S. organizations, composed of hospital and medical systems, universities, associations and professional societies, affirmed their commitment to reducing provider burnout and advance provider well-being. By doing so, each of these groups became network organizations in the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience.

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