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What Impact Does Physician Burnout Have on Quality of Care?

Physician burnout is a dangerous problem that occurs when health care providers are stressed, overworked, and physically and emotionally exhausted due to the conditions of their jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed physician burnout to an all-time high of 63 percent, according to a survey recently conducted by researchers. Patients can suffer adverse health outcomes due to physician burnout.

What Causes Physician Burnout?

Physician burnout is a multifaceted challenge that can be influenced by a number of individual, organizational and systemic factors. Individual factors can include a doctor’s real or perceived lack of physical or psychological safety, such as what many health care providers experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizational factors may involve overcrowded hospitals and overworked physicians.

Systemic problems, such as inefficient health systems that increase the workload placed on doctors, can also contribute to physician burnout. Causes of burnout can include long working hours, heavy patient loads, administrative burdens, regulatory compliance and lack of a work-life balance. These issues can result in health care providers experiencing a great deal of stress, which in turn can impact their ability to care for patients.

How Can Physician Burnout Affect Quality of Care?

Doctors should have work environments that promote optimal productivity and quality of patient care. Physicians should not be overworked, overburdened or assigned too many patients. When a doctor experiences burnout, he or she can suffer a loss of morale, as well as physical exhaustion, fatigue, and mental or cognitive deficits. The effects of burnout can negatively impact patient care.

One potential consequence is an increase in the number of medical errors that occur. Physical and mental exhaustion can lead to preventable mistakes and Philadelphia medical malpractice cases due to distraction, inattention or fatigue. Examples include misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, medication errors and birth injuries. Burnout and fatigue can cause physicians to fall below the medical standard of care, and, unfortunately, this can lead to patient injuries and deaths.

How Can Medical Centers Prevent Physician Burnout?

The medical center or hospital where a physician works can ultimately be held responsible for cases of physician burnout and related patient injuries. It is the institution’s responsibility to provide adequate professional support to its doctors. Physician burnout is a systemic issue that should be addressed by the health care organization.

Strategies for preventing physician burnout include:

  • Providing a healthy, nontoxic work environment that promotes teamwork.
  • Avoiding excessive workloads and correctly addressing high patient volumes.
  • Employing a sufficient number of doctors for the number of patients being treated.
  • Giving physicians more autonomy in decision-making.
  • Reducing the administrative burden by implementing technological solutions.
  • Acknowledging and appreciating efforts and contributions made by physicians.
  • Encouraging physicians who are experiencing burnout to seek help and support.

Health care centers should fight physician burnout by improving work environments, promoting a healthy work-life balance, fostering a workplace culture that values the well-being of its doctors and providing mental health resources, when necessary. Listening to doctors and offering comprehensive solutions to physical and emotional burnout can promote greater job satisfaction and lead to higher-quality patient care.

If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by physician burnout, seek legal advice from the medical malpractice attorneys at Youman & Caputo. You may be able to recover financial compensation for the harm suffered due to substandard medical care. Contact us today for a free case consultation.