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An Action Plan for Provider Wellness

Taking steps to address physician burnout

UH Clinical Update - February 2018

By Cliff Megerian, MD, President, UH Physician Network

The term ‘physician burnout’ was unheard of 10 years ago. Today, an online search for the phrase garners more than 8 million results. It’s become abundantly clear to leaders at UH and hospitals around the U.S. that physicians are reacting negatively to a cacophony of new mandates that affect their practice -- and that this is a problem industry-wide as well as at UH. The New England Journal of Medicine has two recent articles on physician burnout that you can read here and here.

Physician burnout has been much studied in recent years, and it is found to result from a number of stressors – greatest among them is the exponential increase in documentation and other elements that add to administrative burdens, such as required pre-approvals for medications and services. The result is that physicians commonly spend 1.5 hours on these demands for each hour they spend face-to-face with a patient, taking valuable time away from establishing good physician-to-patient relationships. For most of us, these opportunities to help and interact with patients are the bedrock reason we became physicians.

Improving the physician experience for our medical practice and faculty physicians at UH is necessary and urgent.

Communication is our first major area for improvement. Our focus is on listening to our physicians to better understand your experience. Fortunately, our physician community has welcomed the opportunity to take part in discussions that will lead to change. I am grateful to the many physicians who actively serve on various recently formed committees, who are helping to shape a distinct and differentiating UH physician culture.

We also continue to work at removing some of the day-to-day hurdles posed by our EMR system. This effort involves connecting UH physicians and IT specialists in analyzing clinical workflows to streamline processes. We are working closely with Allscripts, our system vendor, and adding new technologies. We’re taking a practical approach to improving your EMR experience.

The stress created by disruptions in healthcare is a cause of physician burnout. We are introducing new resources to help our physicians cope. You’re invited to take advantage of wellness and wellbeing resources we offer.

This year, we created the new Office of Provider Wellness. Goutham Rao, MD, Chairman of Family Medicine, has been named its director. His early accomplishments include:

  • Creation of a system-wide provider wellness committee, with more than 20 members representing a wide variety of providers.
  • Researching and applying blueprints established at other institutions, based on the approaches shown to be effective in improving provider wellness.
  • Offering monthly “rejuvenation” meetings, which offer a chance to connect with other physicians over refreshments, to share insights or frustrations, and receive chair massages aimed to relieve that day’s tension.
  • Instituting quarterly Grand Rounds seminars on the topic of wellness. We have held two since the fall of 2017. 
  • Development of a simple, easy to complete monitoring survey for provider wellness that will provide valuable information about the success of our efforts.
  • Exploring less burdensome strategies for real time clinical documentation. Clinical documentation in the electronic health record is a major detractor of wellness among many providers.

We are coordinating these offerings through the Office of Provider Wellness. You can reach that office at 216-844-6161. If you get voicemail, we will return the call within 24 hours. The office offers resources, including information on a wide range of activities, as well as individual help, a forum for feedback and suggestions, and a place to offer innovations. More activities and resources for providers will be rolled out in the coming months.