The price tag for physician burnout runs at $4.6 billion annually when the costs associated with turnover and reduced clinical hours are tallied. To sharpen the discussion around physician burnout, Shasha Han, MS, of the National University of Singapore, and coauthors perform a cost-consequence analysis. The team, which include researchers from Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic.

Issue for medical profession

Burnout is widely recognize as an urgent issue for the medical profession, with about 54% of physicians reporting one or more symptoms in previous studies. The condition is mark by emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from work, and a sense of low personal accomplishment. The authors develop a mathematical model drawing from publish research and industry reports to estimate burnout associate costs.

The authors describe their analysis as a “conservative” estimate of the economic toll of physician burnout. For example, their work did not factor in relate costs of burnout; so that are difficult to quantify, such as reduce quality of patient care and malpractice lawsuits; which would likely add to the current estimates.

Rather, Han and coauthors focus on turnover and reduction in clinical hours because these factors directly relate to what they term the net supply of clinical capacity. Looking at the costs for healthcare organizations, they found an annual cost attributable to burnout estimate at roughly $7600 per physician.

Potential costs to a practice

The analysis does not fully factor in potential costs to a practice or hospital; as it captures only direct revenue losses as a result of a physician vacancy, the authors note. In addition, as patient satisfaction diminishes with reduce quality of care; so from physician burnout, the organization may enjoy less favorable contracting; so with payers or see reduce annual reimbursements drop because of low patient satisfaction scores, the authors write.

However, they include the lost income from unfilled positions; so only in the organizational level analysis. They exclude this component from the national level analysis; so because at that level the lost income from physicians leaving 1 organization is gain by the new organization they join; so unless the physician leaves medical practice permanently, the authors write.

Physicians find practicing medicine harder than ever because it is harder than ever, Ellison writes. Nearly everything a physician does in 2019 is monitored, rated, assessed, and report. Ellison notes that the suicide rate among physicians tops that of combat veterans. About 300 to 400 US physicians take their own lives every year; so a rate that is higher than that of the general public “by 40% for men and an astonishing 130% for women, Ellison writes.

Although the fiscal impact of physician burnout is important; they cannot underestimate the urgency, severity, and tragedy of the human cost,” Ellison continues. Having lost colleagues to suicide, beginning with medical school classmates more than 30 years ago; also having look into the eyes of heartbroken family members; so they know that the human cost is inestimable.