Physician Burnout in a Single Health System

Physician burnout survey continues to show it's a major problem in healthcare

While physician burnout continues to be seen throughout healthcare, a group of researchers wanted to evaluate its impact and prevalence within a single health system.

Relying on data collected from the Cleveland Clinic, researchers Amy Windover, PhD, Kathryn Martinez, PhD, MPH, and Mary Beth Mercer, MPH looked at data from a survey conducted between 2013 and 2014, which used the Maslach Burnout Inventory – a common instrument for measuring burnout. Their results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory measured burnout in three areas – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment, as well as burnout overall. Outcomes related to burnout included leaving the organization, productivity, receipt of ombudsman complaints, patient satisfaction with physician communication in inpatient, primary care and specialty care. Using multivariable logistic regression models, the researchers evaluated the correlation between reported burnout and outcomes. More than 1,100 (1,145) physicians took the survey.

The results?

  • Thirty-five percent of the physicians met the criteria for overall burnout.
  • Emotional exhaustion was associated with greater odds of leaving the organization.
  • Emotional exhaustion was also correlated with higher patient satisfaction with primary care physician communication, but overall burnout and depersonalization were not.
  • Depersonalization was associated with greater odds of ombudsman complaints, but overall burnout and emotional exhaustion were not.
  • There was no significant association between burnout and production or patient satisfaction with inpatient or specialty care.

The conclusions drawn by researchers?

  • Because depersonalization was associated with ombudsman complaints, the researchers suggest that patients may be more affected by depersonalization than emotional exhaustion.
  • Also, a positive association between emotional exhaustion and patient satisfaction was not surprising. “Physicians who give more to patients during clinical encounters may find themselves emotionally depleted,” said the researchers. “Consequently, low patient satisfaction scores are unlikely to identify physicians in need of burnout interventions.”
Windover AK, Martinez K, Mercer MB, Neuendorf K, Boissy A, Rothberg MB. Correlates and Outcomes of Physician Burnout Within a Large Academic Medical Center. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 19, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0019