Physician Health

Charter calls for comprehensive efforts on physician burnout 

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

A group of experts on doctor burnout from leading medical centers and organizations—including the AMA—has developed a charter on physician well-being that lays out the societal, organizational, interpersonal and individual commitments that must be honored to properly restore joy in medicine for an overburdened workforce.

Physician well-being is increasingly recognized as the fourth goal that joins the vaunted “triple aim” of improving care quality and patient experience while lowering health costs. Health systems have a strong reason to pay attention to the issue: their bottom lines. It has been estimated that burnout accounts for one-third of the cost of physician turnover, according to data cited in a JAMA Viewpoint describing the new charter.

The JAMA essay includes a copy of the charter, created by Collaborative for Healing and Renewal in Medicine, dubbed CHARM. The charter breaks out the various obligations in the following manner.

Societal commitments:

  • Foster a trustworthy and supportive culture in medicine.
  • Advocate for policies that enhance well-being.

Organizational commitments:

  • Build supportive systems.
  • Develop engaged leadership.
  • Optimize highly functioning interprofessional teams.

Interpersonal and individual commitments:

  • Anticipate and respond to inherent emotional challenges of physician work.
  • Prioritize mental health care.
  • Practice and promote self-care.

“Meaningful work, strong relationships with patients, positive team structures and social connection at work are important factors for physician well-being,” conclude the essay’s authors.

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The AMA expressed strong support for the charter.

“Achieving national health goals depends on an energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA. “But the mounting burdens of the modern health care delivery system are taking a toll on physicians by contributing to the growing problem of work-induced burnout and emotional fatigue. The AMA is committed to restoring joy in medicine, a goal we share with the other founding members of the Collaborative for Healing and Renewal in Medicine.”

Dr. Barbe added that the charter has it right in declaring that “the nation is best served by a health system that promotes professional fulfillment by allowing physicians to meet their patients’ needs for high-quality care.”

An AMA membership means supporting access to workflow strategies that can reduce burnout in your organization.

More than 350,000 physicians and practice managers have already accessed AMA Steps Forward™, the practice improvement strategies that support care teams in learning about and implementing workflows and other best practices. Based on extensive research, expert input and case studies from physician practices, these educational modules drive the type of change that benefits patient care and physician well-being.

Several STEPS Forward modules have been developed from the generous grant funding of the federal Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative (TCPI), an effort designed to help clinicians achieve large-scale health transformation through TCPI’s Practice Transformation Networks.  

The AMA, in collaboration with TCPI, is providing technical assistance and peer-level support by way of STEPS Forward resources to enrolled practices. The AMA is also engaging the national physician community in health care transformation through network projects, change packages, success stories and training modules.

The AMA offers online CME to improve physician well-being. Explore the “Improving physician resiliency” module, the “Creating the Organizational Foundation for Joy in Medicine™” module, and other educational content.