Physician Health

Dodge these 5 organizational miscues to boost physician well-being

Physician burnout continues to receive growing attention with more health care organizations searching for solutions to improve the well-being of their doctors and other health professionals. But just implementing a program without defining the goals, objectives and what determines success is not enough. Leaders at MultiCare Health System—a Tacoma, Washington, nonprofit—explained the lessons they have learned in creating a physician well-being program that works.

“We realized we weren’t addressing burnout. We weren’t acting in a way that was providing the right level of advocacy and support for our providers and the ripple effect that it had on our care teams,” Jason Epeneter said at the International Conference on Physician Health in Toronto. The event was cosponsored by the AMA, Canadian Medical Association and British Medical Association.

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“There was a fundamental shift that needed to happen” where physicians and other health professionals could focus on their own well-being, said Epeneter, who is a practice optimization consultant at MultiCare.

Committed to making physician burnout a thing of the past, the AMA has studied, and is currently addressing, issues causing and fueling physician burnout—including time constraints, technology and regulations—to better understand the challenges physicians face.

The AMA Ed Hub™—your center for personalized learning from sources you trust—offers CME on professional well-being using the STEPS Forward™ open-access platform to provide innovative strategies that allow physicians and their staff to thrive in the new health care environment. These toolkits can help you prevent physician burnout, create the organizational foundation for joy in medicine, create a strong team culture and improve physician resiliency.

With such a large group of doctors and successful implementation in only nine months, MultiCare normalized the conversation and approached physician burnout at the system level. Here are five myths to avoid and tips for how to implement a physician well-being program at your organization.

The program can be run by a single person. Ensure the correct people are at the table. The physician well-being program began as a small grassroots effort with multiple levels of leadership, as well as the operational and clinical side. It eventually evolved into a cross-functional team.

In collaboration with physicians and the care team, MultiCare addresses the “pain points that are keeping people up at night and contributing to a lot of the distress or even the pajama time that they may be using to wrap up notes,” Epeneter said.

You can wing it. Preparation is key to obtaining your health system’s leadership support. “Let’s create a roadmap to get there, establish a charter and vet that with different individuals along the way,” Epeneter said.

You can count on the word getting around. With any new product, service and department in a health system, you need to spread the word. Explain why the program exists, how it can help and what it can do—show why it is beneficial.

“We are there to help you—we’re advocates” for doctors and other health professionals, Epeneter said. “Our first and foremost effort, and reason for being here, is to serve you and ensure your health and well-being, so you can care for patients and have better outcomes and better work-life balance.”

Use various channels and resources to share the well-being program, such as newsletters, meeting with supervisors and medical directors, highlighting scope of service and honoring confidentiality.

You can improve without measurement. This will show what kind of progress you’re making—or failing to make. At MultiCare, a physician well-being index survey is distributed to physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The provider efficiency profile (PEP), a report from Epic, is also used to validate what physicians are feeling.

“If they are working at all hours of the night, the PEP will say exactly what their pajama time looks like and what kind of time they are spending in Epic on their days off,” said Ellie Rajcevich, also a practice optimization consultant at MultiCare. “That has helped us not only identify where some problems are, but also some opportunities.”

You don’t need feedback. To have a successful well-being program, it is important to have feedback and support from physicians, the health care team and leadership. MultiCare has a wellness advisory group to ensure success of the program. This group of 20 physicians from across the organization help the team focus on areas that need attention.

“We know so much from our data, but we learn so much from actually hearing people talk about their experiences,” Rajcevich said.