How Hospitals Think They Can Fix Burnout

I know that many of you cannot read this article in the Wall Street Journal but I still think there is a need to highlight what was said in it. The online version is called:

Hospitals Address Widespread Doctor Burnout

To address an epidemic of physician stress that some say puts patients at risk of medical errors, hospitals are making changes

Okay, where do I begin?  First, I need to take a deep breath.  Look at the sub headline. Patients at risk? Medical errors?  Umm, what about doctors killing themselves or quitting?   To be fair, at least this issue is being talked about. Let’s move on.

The article highlights how some hospitals are creating a new position called “Chief Wellness Officer”.  What’s your thoughts when you first hear that?  I hate that more administrators are created but I do like that someone is going to bat for the doctors.  Anyway, the doctor doing this job was interviewed and said this:

“Telling doctors to eat granola, do yoga and be more resilient isn’t going to address this problem,” says Tait Shanafelt, who was appointed chief wellness officer of Stanford Medicine a year ago.

Ok, he gets a pass on this because I think he is right.  The rest of the article talks about things I have been saying FOREVER:

  • One priority is reducing clerical duties. A leading cause of physician distress is electronic record-keeping, which requires doctors to do clerical and billing work, and cuts into time with patients. It has also increased “Pajama Time,” the hours doctors devote at home to electronic charting that wasn’t finished during the day.
  • A related problem is managing electronic in-baskets filled with patient demands. “A typical physician nowadays gets bombarded with tasks.”

But the recommendations given were questionable:

  • He envisions a team approach where doctors focus on clinical care and leave some tasks to others. By shaving administrative minutes here and there, Dr. Ripp aims to reduce nightly electronic work by an hour.
  • Hiring staff to sit in on appointments and take notes is cost-effective, he says, because it frees up doctors to see more patients.

The answer, in my humble opinion, is not hiring more people but destroying the system that created these tasks in the first place. Direct primary care is one way but I understand that this may not work for specialists. We cannot keep trying to follow the demands of third parties and think we can win at this game.  That is a dog trying to catch his tail.  This system needs to be blown up.  The bandaid approach won’t work.

My favorite part of this article, and I am not being sarcastic, was this:

As an example of frayed bonds, Dr. Shanafelt points out that hospitals’ physician lounges, where doctors could meet, unwind and discuss cases, have largely vanished. While two new Stanford hospitals have them, Dr. Shanafelt, associate dean at the Stanford School of Medicine, would like gathering places for doctors throughout his institution and at other hospitals as a low-cost effort “to help drive community.”

I love the idea of a Doctor’s Lounge again!!  Love it.   But who would be allowed in?  Doctor of what?  DNP?  Ph.D? There is no way this would hold.  I could see this politically correct culture of ours watering that down so much that ANYONE would be allowed in and then doctors wouldn’t show up anymore.  And then the administration would close it.  Oh yeah, that is how they got rid of them in the first place.

What is your thoughts on all this?  I would love to hear it.

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117430cookie-checkHow Hospitals Think They Can Fix Burnout