For physicians, the practice of medicine comes with a cost beyond medical school bills. In many cases, our doctors pay in health and wellness. And Americans pays, too. Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators have estimated that the annual cost of physicians leaving the medical profession or making an error due to burnout could be $3.4 billion per year (read paper).
There is a growing awareness of the essential need for physicians to see to their own health and wellness – as well as an appreciation for the barriers that exist for self-care. To ensure the ability of physicians to continue to provide their invaluable services, this must be addressed.
Because our doctors – and indeed all our health care providers and support staff – operate under our guiding principal of “the needs of the patient come first,” it’s not surprising that some might forget their own needs.
The daily work of physicians is critical to patient outcomes and cost of care. Our health care system is rapidly changing and as we continue to strive for improved health, lower costs and better experiences while receiving health care, we need to ensure that physicians are fully engaged.
This requires another goal – or perhaps it’s just the other side of a coin: better experiences while providing health care.
At Mayo Clinic, we have a Program on Physician Well-Being. Co-led by Lotte Dyrbye, M.D., and Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., this program was established to conduct and promote innovative research focused on physician well-being. Research led by the team has established that physician burnout threatens the quality of patient care, patient satisfaction, access to care, and physicians' lives.
This team is also involved in collaborations outside of Mayo Clinic, all with the same goal: to improve physician well-being across the career span.
One such collaboration is the “Collaborative for Healing and Renewal in Medicine (CHARM).” Recently CHARM published a “Charter on Physician Well-Being,” led by Dr. West, the senior author. The charter is intended to serve as a model for medical organizations to not only minimize and manage physician burnout, but also promote physician well-being.
“This is a first step on a national level to lay out guiding principles and commitments that we consider essential for physician well-being throughout a career, beginning with the earliest training,” says Dr. West.
Read Mayo Clinic's news release about the charter.
While this may only be the first step, it is a positive one, and one in which research played an essential role. Research shows that when burnout grows unchecked, organizations and careers will suffer. But equally concerning: patients may suffer most due to treatment errors and reduced physician availability.