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Want to reduce physician burnout? Start with engagement.

September 21, 2018

    Nearly half of all physicians report feeling one or more symptoms of burnout. And given the negative effect of burnout on quality, patient experience, and physician turnover, it's no surprise that one of our most frequently asked questions from CMOs is, "What can I do to reduce—or even prevent—physician burnout?"

    The good news is you can mitigate burnout by doubling down on a strategic imperative you're likely already working on: strengthening physician engagement. Early results from Advisory Board's burnout index suggest that strong engagement can have a preventative effect.

    Introducing Advisory Board's Burnout Index

    To help leaders focus their efforts, our colleagues on the Advisory Board Survey Solutions team developed a four-question index that identifies physicians at risk for burnout.

    The index uses a Likert scale to assess the three main symptoms of burnout: emotional exhaustion, personal detachment, and a decreased sense of accomplishment. The fourth question asks respondents to rate their perception of their own burnout. Collectively, the four responses place respondents into one of three categories: low risk, medium risk, or high risk of burnout.

    Early insight into engagement's preventative role

    When the Survey Solutions team analyzed organizations' engagement and burnout data, they found a negative correlation between the two. In other words, the more engaged physicians are, the less likely they are to be at risk for burnout.

    While correlation doesn't imply causation, these findings suggest that high physician engagement may buffer against the symptoms of burnout.

    Maximize the return on your engagement efforts

    This spring, the Physician Executive Council used the same national engagement dataset to pinpoint leaders' top six opportunities to drive engagement across employed and independent physicians.

    According to our analysis, three of your top opportunities to drive engagement are:  

    • Hardwire physician involvement in strategic decisions: Involve physicians in strategic decisions early on in the process to shift physicians' perception that change is being done to them to the perception that change is being done with them at the helm. Saving physicians a seat at the table bolsters a sense of understanding and autonomy when it comes to big strategic initiatives impacting their practice.

    • Embed meaningful physician recognition into workflow: Leverage existing feedback channels to recognize physicians for their daily work, such as sharing positive patient comments surfaced during rounds. Recognizing physicians early and often shows them that their discretionary effort is noticed—and appreciated.

    • Create bite-sized leadership opportunities: Make leadership opportunities accessible to a broader group of physicians by reducing the time commitment of certain roles. Creating opportunities for the non-usual suspects to participate in leadership shows them that their input matters and brings them closer to the organization's mission.

    Stop burnout with our proactive plan to engage newly hired physicians

    Hospitals increasingly employ physicians but continue to struggle with engagement and turnover. Robust physician onboarding is leaders’ critical opportunity to sustain—and build on—new hires’ naturally high engagement levels during their first year of tenure.

    Download this infographic to learn how to drive engagement across physicians’ first 90 days at your organization and beyond.

    Get the Infographic

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