Physician Burnout is NOT a Problem

It’s a dilemma. A problem has a solution. Dilemmas don’t. Dilemmas can only be managed because dilemmas are issues that won’t go away.

Over 50 percent of doctors are experiencing burnout, up from 45.5 percent in 2011, while each year 400 physicians take their own lives; more than double that of the general population. This is a dilemma. It’s convoluted and conflicted. It’s filled with opposing tensions and competing priorities struggling for dominance.

Central to the physician burnout struggle is the Triple Aim: the guiding framework for value-based care that inadvertently situated physician well-being and patient satisfaction as competing priorities. But who says we can’t have both?

The key to happier patients and healthier populations is provider wellness.

Change Agents: Managing the Physician Burnout Dilemma

The C-suite has begun to see what physicians already know – burnout imperils the Triple Aim by undermining its foundation: highly effective clinical staff.

Forward-thinking healthcare organizations have already begun adding physician wellness champion roles to their physician leadership teams while others like the University of Alabama, who appointed David Rogers as chief wellness officer in 2018, have extended this role to their C-suite.

“[Burnout] is so significant and it has so many negative effects on the health system that it has to have C-suite level attention.”

– Dr. Darrell Kirch, CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, told Modern Healthcare’s, Maria Castellucci.

The wellness champion’s primary responsibility is reducing physician burnout by maximizing the wellbeing of providers; however, to implement real change, wellness champions need a functional wellness strategy.

Introducing the Quadruple Aim to Your Healthcare Organization

Dr. Dike Drummond

Dr. Dike Drummond,  a former Mayo Clinic family doctor, turned healthcare consultant, developed the annual Quadruple Aim Physician Leadership Retreat where a select group of 40 like-minded physician leaders come together to learn proven techniques to treat and prevent burnout.

The agenda includes training in awareness, mindfulness, personal communication, facilitation skills and system design.

“In the last two years, we have graduated 149 Physician Wellness Champions from this retreat, where we teach a full library of skills learned from our comprehensive experience preventing physician burnout. Attendees bring home better ways to care for themselves and their people,” Drummond says.

Managing the physician burnout dilemma is about stamina, not speed. It’s about organizational and personal change that requires a long-term investment and a functional strategy. The Quadruple Aim lays the groundwork for both. It’s an evolution of the Triple Aim, not a challenge to it.

As the Triple Aim evolved from theory to practice, it’s become clear that without an additional dimension accounting for practitioner wellness, the goals of the Triple Aim aren’t achievable. Organizations will not see sustainable cost savings and care quality improvements until leaders address physician burnout. As Jim Carrol says: “Great leaders may not solve every problem, but they will ensure that every dilemma is better managed.”