By Dr. Larry Blosser
The question of physician burnout no longer seems to be a philosophical one. Burnout is occurring for physicians just the way it is occurring in almost all other professions. While I am thinking of this from the physician’s perspective, the same logic can apply to the burnout that all members of medical care teams are experiencing now.
The causes of physician burnout are many, but certainly the complexity of working in the electronic health record and the increasing demands for additional documentation have played a significant part. The amount of documentation required of physicians to satisfy many requirements beyond the original need to document clinical care has increased significantly.
The pandemic only seemed to magnify and accelerate the physician burnout that was already beginning. The pandemic created new challenges as physicians and medical professionals struggled to address patient needs, often without being able to be in the same room as the patient.
Physician burnout has driven an exodus from patient care. As more physicians and care providers retire or leave medicine the burden on those remaining becomes even larger.
How can we alleviate the growing burden for physicians and care providers? Fortunately, there are solutions to physician burnout that will have additional benefits beyond simply reducing burnout.
The vision of value-based care has been to improve the quality of care, as well as the cost of care. However, it also can be an effective tool to address burnout as well. The traditional fee-for-service medicine we have all experienced, either as a provider or a patient, requires an increasing volume of services in order for the physician’s practice to remain viable. In contrast in value-based care, the quality of the care provided can be rewarded and compensated for rather than compensating for the volume of care or services. With a value-based orientation, it is no longer necessary to have a full schedule to be successful. By focusing instead on preventative care, wellness, or necessary care, physicians can reduce the stress of needing to keep schedules full and improve patient health and outcomes at the same time.
To provide value-based care physicians need tools that are different than those used for fee-for-service care. Physicians need to be able to identify which patients need specific service and to understand how well they are addressing the needs of all of their patients and not just the one in front of them at the moment. Physicians need to know how often they are attaining treatment goals or thresholds for all of the patients in the population they care for.
Shifting toward valued-based care and away from fee-for-service, where there is the constant need to see more and more patients, has the potential to improve job satisfaction for physicians by reducing through-put demands. At the same time, increasing the focus on the quality of care provided and on addressing gaps in patient care will improve the health of patients. Without a doubt, transitioning to value-based care will certainly have the effect of reducing physician burnout.