Easing Physician Burnout Pays Off Financially

There’s a strong moral and ethical case for organizations to address doctor burnout, but there’s also a financial case to be made as well, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine. “Evidence suggests that improvement is possible, investment is justified, and return on investment measurable.”

Many organizations that employ physicians don’t appreciate that there is indeed a business case to be made to address burnout and even those that do, believe that nothing can be done about it, the study states.

The study uses an example of an organization that employs 450 doctors. Say that it has a turnover rate of 7.5%. That costs about $500,000 per physician, meaning that the annual cost of physician turnover for that organization would come to $16 million. Not all physicians move on because of burnout, of course, but many do, and the authors say that based on evidence, the cost of burnout for this organization would come to about $2.5 million a year.

An intervention that costs about $1 million a year could produce a 20% reduction in the relative risk of burnout, which translates into a savings of about $1.25 million a year.

The ways to decrease burnout include an understanding what causes it. These include lack of work-life integration, not finding meaning in work, too much workload, and lack of flexibility and control.

“Organizations can often make profound and effective changes in several of these dimensions (eg, flexibility and/or control, efficiency, community at work, and meaning in work) with limited investment,” the study states.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine