Solving physician burnout: Interdependent care teams beyond hospital setting could be answer

Thomas Jefferson chief Stephen Klasko and athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush believe a healthcare system overhaul is not only necessary, but possible, and will talk about their ideas at HIMSS18 in Las Vegas.
By Bernie Monegain
09:56 AM
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physician burnout

Physicians are under more pressure than ever before. Kludgy EHR software interfaces, ICD-10 codes, new payment models, those are just the beginning. So it’s no wonder that physician burnout has become a widespread problem for hospitals and medical practices.

“There are many studies about why doctors feel ‘this isn't the job I signed up for,’ ” Stephen Klasko, MD, said. He pointed to research showing that 71 percent of physicians feel disengaged. Those doctors are more likely to leave, he said, adding that the departures prove costly for hospitals – about $250,000 for each physician who calls it quits.

Klasko, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, is teaming up with athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush to lead a HIMSS18 session about the increasing pressure physicians are feeling as rising expectations show no sign of abating, and concern over physician burnout continues.

During their HIMSS18 session “Physician Engagement as a Catalyst for Clinical and Financial Improvement,” Klasko and Bush will discuss physician capability and engagement and how to deploy technology that matches provider needs, eliminates work and engages rather than getting in the way of physicians.

Klasko champions honing leadership skills along the same lines as those often learned in the sports arena.

“Mid-career doctors who played team sports in school are happier today,” Klasko said. “Maybe it's too late to go back and teach them basketball -- but we can teach them leadership skills.”

Klasko said hospitals leaders also need to focus on building resilience and optimism among mid-career physicians. And he said that electronic health records will at some point actually make doctor’s working lives better.

“We tend to overestimate technology in the short run, but underestimate it in the long run,” Klasko said. The first generation of EHRs frustrate many doctors, he acknowledged, “but we have many generations to go and I believe we will see a complete transformation of how we can support patients and their teams.”

That transformation should also include moving toward a future in which healthcare will be run by teams in many non-traditional locations.

“We have to design a system with no address, using interdependent teams that include the patient,” he said. “We have to move beyond the hospital as the geographic center of care, and beyond the doctor as the captain of the ship.”

The session “Physician Engagement as a Catalyst for Clinical and Financial Improvement,” is at 4 p.m. March 8 in the Las Vegas Venetian Convention Center Palazzo G. 

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Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com