CV physician burnout is reaching concerning levels across the country and has become a top priority for hospital leaders because of its very real effects on patient experience, quality, and cost.
We spent the past year uncovering sustainable tactics to improve CV physician engagement and mitigate burnout. Learn about what we discovered—and why your CV program should care about physician engagement.
CV physician burnout is becoming a top priority
For many physicians, the growing list of mandates and unrelenting pace of change of today's health care world is too much to manage. Cardiovascular specialists can feel these pressures particularly acutely. Their patients are sicker, more complex, and more numerous than ever before. Heavy caseloads mean long days during which physicians navigate increasingly complicated care teams, delivery systems, and therapies. And all too often, at the end of these busy days, physicians must spend hours completing extensive documentation in complicated EHR systems.
Given these stressors, many CV physicians experience burnout. In fact, 43% of them report feeling burned out, according to a Medscape survey published last year. Indeed, physician burnout has become such a pervasive challenge that Harvard is calling it a “public health crisis.” National societies, like the American College of Cardiology, have added it to the top of their priority list. And perhaps most importantly, it demands the attention of CV leaders, as burnout has far-reaching consequences that impact physician well-being, patient care, and even the hospital’s bottom line.
A problem with tangible consequences
There are significant impacts of burnout on physicians, patients, and the CV business.
Physician burnout can look very different from physician to physician and from organization to organization. On an individual level, the manifestations of burnout can range from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated to mental health concerns.
Beyond those individual effects, burnout has real consequences for the CV service line. Burnout can negatively affect patient experience and result in medical errors. Because burnout has been linked to more turnover and early retirement, it can make it more difficult to recruit and retain enough physicians to meet patient needs.
Burnout cannot be ignored
Market and demographic trends indicate that burnout will continue to pose a challenge for health systems across the country. This is particularly pertinent to the CV service line, given its large share of later-career physicians who are preparing for retirement. These vacancies may not be easy to fill, as recent research has suggested that cardiology’s reputation for limited work-life balance is discouraging medical students and younger physicians from pursuing the specialty. Indeed, there are currently 4,000 open CV physician positions, and that number is expected to quadruple by 2050.
Moreover, burnout is causing those physicians who do choose cardiology to leave hospitals, retire early, and even leave medicine altogether. Each of these staffing losses increases the burdens of care on remaining physicians and makes them more susceptible to burnout.
Given the potential consequences of physician burnout, CV leaders should develop a sustainable physician engagement strategy that mitigates drivers of burnout at their organizations.
How to build a lasting engagement strategy
Drivers of physician engagement and solutions that may help mitigate burnout will look a little bit different at each system. The first step must be to listen to physicians at your program to learn about the specific drivers of their own engagement.
There are many ways to gather that information, from group forums to engagement surveys. To provide some guidance from a national perspective in the interim, the Cardiovascular Roundtable spent the past year talking to CV administrators, physician leaders, physicians, and program managers to learn more about specific drivers of CV physician engagement at service lines across the country.
Through those conversations, we identified a few common themes. CV physician leaders told us their peers want to be fairly compensated for their work, spend less time on the EHR, have flexible models to support work-life balance, and feel recognized and valued by colleagues and leaders. We found that programs that crafted tactics to promote these missions increased physician satisfaction and retention.
To help communicate the implications of physician burnout and gain support for physician engagement initiatives, download our ready-to-present slides.
Regardless of what the solution may look like at your institution, it is imperative that leaders take decisive action to reduce burnout, increase engagement, and maintain highly satisfied CV physicians.