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January 4, 2019

Your questions: How to identify burned-out doctors and reward high-performers

Daily Briefing

    Every week, more than 400 hospital and health system leaders submit their questions to our Expert Center. Do you have questions of your own about hospital best practices? Send them to us at ExpertCenterRequests@advisory.com, and we'll provide a customized, actionable response.

    "I've been trying to figure out which of my physicians are burned out and what I can do to help them. What advice do you have for me?"

    -VP of a medical group in the Midwest

    Our response:

    As over half of physicians report feeling "burned out"—and as we learn more about its impact on patient experience, quality and cost—addressing the issue has become a top priority for health executives. Yet, we've found that actually recognizing who is burnt out can be much harder than you'd think. Neither gender, tenure, nor engagement level are actually predictive of burnout.

    Rather, to identify and fight burnout, our experts recommend the following imperatives:

    • Be prepared to listen–The top organizations find burnout below the surface by asking physicians about how practicing medicine makes them feel and about the main challenges they're facing. Our research has found that the best way to listen to physicians includes group forums, one-on-one conversations, and executive rounding.
    • Give your physicians a choice in operational initiatives—Many physicians can feel like a cog in the wheel amidst a growing list of organizational priorities. To combat this, leaders can insert choice and individual agency back into the equation by giving physicians choices whenever possible.
    • Even the score—balance negative and positive feedback—Physicians often only receive negative feedback, or feedback that is quantitative and reinforces the transactional aspects of their profession. Your organization can help by seeking and sharing positive feedback widely and often.
    • Don't forget to offer emotional support– The practice of medicine is emotionally taxing; your organization can help to reduce burnout by helping physicians get the emotional support they need.

    To read more about these imperatives, why burnout matters, and how to mitigate it, read our report on Combatting Physician Burnout. Then, make sure to learn more about how EMRs are influencing burnout and how to alleviate its growing burden on physician practice with the Medical Group Leader's EMR Optimization Playbook.

    "I'm a new manager and I want to show my employees how much I value them at the start of the year. Do you have any suggestions?"

    -Administrative manager at a health system in the Northeast

    Our response:

    Our experts commend you on understanding the value in recognizing your staff's achievements and efforts. Our research has consistently shown that engaged staff are more inspired to do their best work and far more willing to go above and beyond to help their organization succeed. Our experts have outlined four easy ways to recognize staff, including:

    • Peer compliment jar—Create a jar labeled "compliments" in a high-traffic area and encourage your staff to recognize one another. Then, read the collected compliments aloud at staff meetings to help your team build positive relationships.
    • Predefined team goals—Set a predefined, SMART goal with staff that they can work toward together. If they meet it, choose a reward as a team to celebrate.
    • Manager's recognition box—Block 30 minutes on your calendar each week to write and send personalized notes to your staff. Make a box with all of the supplies and addresses you need ahead of time to make it easy to deliver timely recognition.
    • Recognition preference assessment—Download our Recognition Preference Assessment and print out one for each team member to fill out. This form asks staff about how they prefer to be recognized, so you can reward them for performance in a way that's most meaningful to them.

    Read more about how to implement these tools on pages 55-64 of The Manager's Guide to Engaging Staff. For additional tactics to engage staff through small 'microshifts,' review our blog, 3 'microshifts' to engage your staff—without adding work to your plate.

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