Examining the Impact of Physician Burnout on Patient Safety and Outcomes

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Achievement of the quadruple aim requires investment in the health and well-being of physicians. Its influence on essential elements of healthcare – access to care, patient satisfaction, quality of care and patient safety – cannot be ignored. The delivery of better health outcomes, lower healthcare costs and an improved patient experience rests on humanizing the clinician experience. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of physician burnout on patient safety and outcomes and explore existing policies that may be amenable to policy intervention to address physician burnout. A literature review was used to identify factors contributing to physician burnout and the downstream effects on the quality of care delivered and patient outcomes. The search criteria were restricted to the years 2018 – 2023 and the following terms: “physician burnout,” “patient care” and “patient outcomes.” Among the eight articles used in the analysis, the following factors emerged as primary contributors to physician burnout: administrative burden/EHR, excessive workloads/long working hours, loss of autonomy and leadership culture/lack of alignment of professional values with those in leadership. The factors manifest at the bedside as a lack of empathy, poor decision-making skills and poor communication to patients and peers. On a larger scale, this translates to increased costs related to unnecessary tests, medical errors, malpractice claims/settlements and decreased access to care as physicians leave medicine. There are significant costs – both human and financial – associated with burnout. Developing a workplace environment optimal for delivery of care and aligning values of leadership/organization with the practices therein involves prioritizing these things, thus creating a culture of safety and demonstrating our commitment to it.



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