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Financial Cost of Physician Burnout
  • Dr. Thomas Falls, MD

Financial Cost of Physician Burnout

This isn't going to be a long post, and no matter how much I write I certainly can't begin to tackle this enormous topic. However, I have seen quite a bit of chatter about this online recently - and its because a study has put an actual estimated price tag on the cost of physician burnout in the US - $4.6 billion!!


Over the past few years there have been increasing numbers of articles about physician depression, suicides (average of one physician per day in the US) and the associated problems. The perpetual joke on medtwitter is that "we all better be more mindful" - because thats how we are "taught" to handle this in med school (and maybe one grand round per year in residency). I hate to be cynical, but I feel as though the only way this will get any real attention is because of the financial implications. Just like with everything else in this world - money talks. Physicians have more than enough to worry about with patient care, let alone dealing with Press Ganey scores, performance metrics, value based reimbursement (like at a previous hospital where all physicians had to ask about smoking - which seemed somewhat silly for orthopaedic surgeons - I understand its important and I ask about it when its relevant but if someone comes in with an ankle sprain, I don't have time to counsel them about this, nor is that the purpose or scope of the visit) or lawsuits, etc.


There has been some slow pushback against asking about mental health/how its asked about on medical license renewal paperwork. This has definitely been cited as a reason to not seek proper care by physicians in the past. God forbid your doctor has been treated for depression - wouldn't you be depressed if you were $300,000+ in debt and being told you weren't productive enough no matter how hard you worked?


Physicians are human. Physicians need help too. The job has changed a lot over the past few decades, but adding more work, more burdens, more documenting and reducing reimbursements is certainly part of the problem. We are not superheroes - but we do certainly want to help every one. We just need some help as well. And maybe a few dollar signs will help advance the cause.


See link here: Physician Burnout Costs Pegged at $4.6 Billion https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/913563?


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