What Interventions Can Reduce Epidemic Physician Burnout?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Colin P. West, MD, PhD, FACP  Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Biomedical Statistics and Informatics Departments of Internal Medicine and Health Sciences Research Mayo Clinic

Dr. Colin West

Colin P. West, MD, PhD, FACP
Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Biomedical Statistics and Informatics
Departments of Internal Medicine and Health Sciences Research
Mayo Clinic

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Physician burnout has reached epidemic levels, as documented in national studies of both physicians in training and practicing physicians demonstrating burnout rates in excess of 50%. Consequences include negative effects on patient care, professionalism, physicians’ own care and safety, and the viability of health-care systems. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to better understand the quality and outcomes of the literature on approaches to prevent and reduce burnout.

We identified 2617 articles, of which 15 randomized trials including 716 physicians and 37 cohort studies including 2914 physicians met inclusion criteria. Across interventions, overall burnout rates decreased from 54% to 44%, emotional exhaustion score decreased from 23.82 points to 21.17 points, and depersonalization score decreased from 9.05 to 8.41. High emotional exhaustion rates decreased from 38% to 24% and high depersonalization rates decreased from 38% to 34%.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The literature indicates that both individual-focused (including mindfulness training, stress management, and physician discussion groups) and structural or organizational strategies (including locally developed practice modifications and duty hour restrictions) can result in clinically meaningful reductions in burnout among physicians. Burnout is a pervasive problem in medicine, and this review outlines evidence-based approaches individuals and organizations can take to improve physician well-being.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Further research is needed to establish which interventions are most effective in specific populations, as well as how individual and organizational solutions might be combined to deliver even greater improvements in physician wellbeing than those achieved with solutions involving only one of these categories. Further research on how long intervention effects are sustained is also needed. Regardless of its focus, future research should strive for the highest-quality study designs, including randomization when possible.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Interventions to prevent and reduce physician burnout: a systematic review and meta-analysis
West, Colin P et al.
The Lancet , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31279-X

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2 Comments
  • Dike Drummond MD
    Posted at 21:56h, 08 October Reply

    Looking at physician burnout through the typical lens of an academic is going to get in your way for one simple reason; Burnout is not a PROBLEM. It has no one simple solution. Burnout is a classic DILEMMA requiring a STRATEGY to maintain the balance you seek. As such, each physician must learn and practice 3 – 5 HABITS to prevent burnout. You choose the actions for your strategy from a large pool of options. The research shows many different interventions are effective, both from the physician side and the organization side. This is because a comprehensive burnout prevention strategy includes both an individual and organizational prevention strategy .. operating simultaneously.

    The tragedy here is if you don’t understand the twin strategy structure and if you wait for academics to figure it out … the docs will be piles of ash by the time this meta-analysis style research kerfuffle reaches a reasonable conclusion.

    We teach 117 ways to prevent burnout. Pick your 3 – 5 and get your strategy going.

    And no … it would be of no use whatsoever to give this article to physicians.

    My two cents

    Dike
    Dike Drummond MD
    TheHappyMD.com

  • Steven Rudin, MD
    Posted at 20:26h, 06 October Reply

    Widely disseminating this article to physicians for free would be a good intervention, in and of itself

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