Taking Action Against
A Systems Approach to
Committee on Systems Approaches to Improve Patient Care
by Supporting Clinician Well-Being
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Hospital Association, Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Association of American Medical Colleges, BJC HealthCare, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, The Doctors Company Foundation, Duke University Hospital, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Johns Hopkins Health System, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Medical College of Wisconsin, Montefiore Medicine, The Mont Fund, The Ohio State University, The State University of New York System, Tulane University, University of Florida, University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Michigan, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Utah Health, University of Virginia Medical Center, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Yale New Haven Health System, and Yale School of Medicine. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-49547-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-49547-4
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25521
Library of Congress Control Number: to come
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Taking action against clinician burnout: A systems approach to professional well-being. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25521.
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COMMITTEE ON SYSTEMS APPROACHES TO IMPROVE PATIENT CARE BY SUPPORTING CLINICIAN WELL-BEING
PASCALE CARAYON (Co-Chair), Leon and Elizabeth Janssen Professor, Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Healthcare Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
CHRISTINE K. CASSEL (Co-Chair), Senior Advisor on Strategy and Policy, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
ELISABETH BELMONT, Corporate Counsel, MaineHealth
NEIL A. BUSIS, Director, Community Neurology, and Director, General Teleneurology Program, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
M. LYNN CRISMON, Dean, James T. Doluisio Regents Chair and Behrens Professor of Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy, and Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin
LISELOTTE DYRBYE, Professor of Medicine and Medical Education, Co-Director, Program on Physician Well-Being, Mayo Clinic
POOJA KINKHABWALA, Endocrinology Fellow, Larkin Community Hospital
WANDA LIPSCOMB, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University
SARANYA LOEHRER, Head of Innovation, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
M. A. J. LEX MacNEIL, Founding Dean and Professor, College of Dental Medicine-Illinois, Midwestern University (Retired)
JOSÉ A. PAGÁN, Chair and Professor, Department of Public Health Policy and Management, College of Global Public Health, New York University
SHARON H. PAPPAS, Chief Nurse Executive, Emory Healthcare and Professor, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University
CYNDA HYLTON RUSHTON, Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics, Berman Institute of Bioethics and School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University
TAIT SHANAFELT, Associate Dean, Chief Wellness Officer, and Jeanie and Stew Ritchie Professor of Medicine, Stanford Medicine
GEORGE THIBAULT, Former President, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, and Daniel D. Federman Professor of Medicine and Medical Education Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
VINDELL WASHINGTON, Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
MATTHEW B. WEINGER, Director, Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety, Professor, Vanderbilt University Schools of Medicine and Engineering, Staff Physician, Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
Board on Health Care Services, Health and Medicine Division, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
LAURA AIUPPA DENNING, Study Director
MARC MEISNERE, Associate Program Officer
RAJBIR KAUR, Senior Program Assistant (until October 2019)
MICAH WINOGRAD, Senior Finance Business Partner
SHARYL J. NASS, Board Director
Board on Human-Systems Integration, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
HEATHER KREIDLER, Associate Program Officer (until July 2019)
TOBY WARDEN, Board Director
Artist: Tia Calvert (Rochester, MN)
Working at a health care organization, I see the effects of burnout, but I also see resiliency in our providers. Woven represents the intricacies, layers, and complexities of feeling burnt out while serving patients. It doesn’t happen all at once, but builds over time. The shimmering threads represent life and hope that is embedded in each provider; the spirit of serving; and the belief that you will make a difference. All of these aspects woven together are the essence of the provider.
This artwork was submitted as part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Expressions of Clinician Well-Being, an art exhibition that collected insights directly from clinicians, patients, loved ones, and organizations working to prevent burnout and promote well-being. For more information on the exhibition, please visit nam.edu/expressclinicianwellbeing.
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This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by MARLA E. SALMON, University of Washington, and DON EUGENE DETMER, University of Virginia School of Medicine. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
We, the members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Systems Approaches to Improve Patient Care by Supporting Clinician Well-Being, wish to express our sincere gratitude to the many individuals and groups who helped with this report.
The committee appreciates the generous funding support extended by these sponsors: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Hospital Association, Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Association of American Medical Colleges, BJC HealthCare, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, The Doctors Company Foundation, Duke University Hospital, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Johns Hopkins Health System, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Medical College of Wisconsin, Montefiore Medicine, The Mont Fund, The Ohio State University, The State University of New York System, Tulane University, University of Florida, University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Michigan, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Utah Health, University of Virginia Medical Center, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Yale New Haven Health System, and Yale School of Medicine.
Over the course of the study, we received valuable information and insight from a number of individuals with expertise in fields related to systems approaches to clinician burnout and professional well-being. Thank you to the presenters at our public meetings:
Many within the National Academies were helpful to study staff. We would like to thank Lauren Shern (Health and Medicine Division Executive Office); Greta Gorman, Nicole Joy, and Tina Seliber (communications and report production). We also appreciate the valuable assistance from Rebecca Morgan (National Academies Research Center); Dana Korsen and Stephanie Miceli (Office of News and Public Information). This report was also made possible by the leadership and support of the staff of the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, including Victor Dzau, Michael McGinnis, Charlee Alexander, Kyra Cappelucci, Ivory Clarke, Laura DeStefano, Imani Rickerby, Samantha Phillips, and Mariana Zindel.
Twenty years ago, in its two landmark reports, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System and Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for dramatic attention to the issue of patient safety and more broadly quality of care. The reports led to major changes in the design of health care work systems and processes to improve quality of care, and reduce preventable patient harm. This report, Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being, is a critical follow-up to these major reports and other reports in the IOM’s Quality Chasm Series, as it calls attention to the safety, health, and well-being of health care clinicians. We were pleased to co-chair the work of this consensus study committee, as our respective areas of expertise—bioethics, professionalism, and quality of care and human factors and systems engineering in health care—are both essential to understanding this complex phenomenon.
The report has two major overarching themes. First, clinician burnout is a major problem; the report calls for immediate action. Health care is going through many dramatic changes (related to technology, regulation, policy, societal trends) that have profound impact on health care delivery and consequently the organizations that deliver care and the people who work within them to care for patients. In this rapidly changing and stressful environment, the rates of burnout among clinicians are alarming. Clinicians are motivated and guided by professional oaths and values that are challenged by these profound changes in the external environment, in health care organizations, and in learning and work environments. This creates real or perceived dissonance of values and mismatch of resources
with job demands experienced by clinicians. Clinician burnout is bad for both clinicians and patients. Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and loss of sense of professional efficacy—the three dimensions of burnout—are detrimental to quality of care. Clinician burnout is also costly for organizations experiencing workforce shortages and difficulty retaining high-quality clinicians. Clinicians suffering burnout are poor teachers and role models for students and trainees, extending these concerns throughout the learning environment. The report calls for immediate action by health care organizations, health professions educational institutions, and health care policy, regulatory, and standards-setting entities.
Second, clinician burnout is a complex multi-factorial problem that is not easily solved; the report recommends a systems approach to reducing clinician burnout and fostering professional well-being. Multiple work system factors contribute to clinician burnout (e.g., high workload, administrative burden, poorly designed technologies) and stem from decisions or actions taken at various levels in health care: the local frontline care delivery level, health care organizations, and multiple policy and regulatory actors in the external environment. The report shows that multiple interacting factors produce imbalances in job demands and resources experienced by clinicians at all stages of their professional development and career. Humanism and professionalism are two major motivating factors for most clinicians, and many aspects of the modern work environment conflict with these fundamental ethical norms. Regulatory and institutional policies, payer requirements, and intrusive, difficult technologies all challenge the basic ethical motivations that are essential to professional fulfillment of the human beings who are central to high-quality patient care. Therefore, work system transformation with meaningful, effective involvement of clinicians is necessary at multiple levels to tackle the critical problem of burnout. Health care organizations have a key role in this transformation; they need to adopt systems design principles to reduce clinician burnout and foster professional well-being.
In the context of these overarching themes, the report highlights specific key issues of clinician burnout that need to be addressed:
- Clinician burnout needs to be tackled early in professional development, and special stressors in the learning environment need to be recognized.
- Stakeholders in the external environment have an important role to play in preventing clinician burnout as their decisions can result in increased burden and other demands that affect clinician burnout. Every attempt at alignment and reduction of requirements to reduce redundancy is essential.
- Technology can either contribute to clinician burnout (e.g., poorly designed electronic health record technologies) or potentially reduce clinician burnout (e.g., well-functioning patient communications,
clinical decision support) if it is well designed, implemented, and integrated into clinical workflow. The report reiterates several recommendations of previous IOM and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports to improve usability, workflow integration, and interoperability of health information technology.
- Medical societies, state licensing boards, specialty certification boards, and medical education and health care delivery organizations all need to take concrete steps to reduce the stigma for clinicians of seeking help for psychological distress, and make assistance more easily available.
There were areas where the study committee wished we could go further but found insufficient evidence to support strong recommendations. One of those areas is interventions. The evidence for system interventions that significantly address clinician burnout is limited. Some organizational interventions (e.g., changes to clinical work processes) can reduce clinician burnout, and individual interventions (e.g., stress management) may also be effective, but they do not address some of the core work system factors that contribute to clinician burnout. In light of the limited evidence base, the study committee was not able to provide specific recommendations for system interventions. The report strongly recommends that health care organizations create, implement, and evaluate their own interventions by using a systematic approach to reducing clinician burnout, use rigorous methods of evaluating burnout and burnout risk, and do so while openly sharing their lessons learned with other health care organizations. The report also calls for investment in research on organizational interventions.
As co-chairs of the study committee, we thank all the members of the committee for their individual and group contributions. In our experience, neither of us has seen such intense dedication and level of contribution of volunteer committee members. We learned a great deal from this diverse group, and are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with them. None of the work of the committee would have been possible without the professional staff of the National Academies, led by the study director, Laura Aiuppa, in collaboration with Marc Meisnere, Rajbir Kaur, Heather Kreidler, and other National Academies staff. Both personally and on behalf of the study committee, we thank them for a truly collaborative, incredibly effective, and productive process.
Pascale Carayon and Christine Cassel, Co-Chairs
Committee on Systems Approaches to Improve Patient Care by Supporting Clinician Well-Being
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|AACN||American Association of Critical-Care Nurses|
|AAMC||Association of American Medical Colleges|
|ABMS||American Board of Medical Specialties|
|ACA||Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010|
|ACGME||Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education|
|ACP||American College of Physicians|
|ADA||Americans with Disabilities Act|
|AMA||American Medical Association|
|AMIA||American Medical Informatics Association|
|ANCC||American Nurses Credentialing Center|
|APM||Alternative Payment Model|
|APN||advanced practice nurse|
|APP||advance practice provider|
|AUC||Appropriate Use Criteria|
|CHIP||Children’s Health Insurance Program|
|CMA||certified medical assistant|
|CME||continuing medical education|
|CMS||Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services|
|CPOE||computerized physician order entry|
|CQMC||Core Quality Measure Collaborative|
|CREW||Civility, Respect, and Engagement at Work|
|EHR||electronic health record|
|FDA||U.S. Food and Drug Administration|
|FSMB||Federation of State Medical Boards|
|HCAHPS||Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems|
|HCO||health care organization|
|HCP||health care professional|
|HFE||human factors engineering|
|HHS||U.S. Department of Health and Human Services|
|HIE||health information exchange|
|HIPAA||Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996|
|HITECH||Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act|
|HWE||healthy work environment|
|ICU||intensive care unit|
|IM-ITE||Internal Medicine In-Training Examination|
|IOM||Institute of Medicine|
|MACRA||Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015|
|MBI||Maslach Burnout Inventory|
|MIPS||merit-based Incentive Payment System|
|MOC||maintenance of certification|
|NAM||National Academy of Medicine|
|NQF||National Quality Forum|
|ONC||The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology|
|PACT||Patient Aligned Care Team|
|PCMH||patient-centered medical home|
|PDMP||prescription drug monitoring program|
|PES-NWI||Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index|
|PHW||Physician Worklife Study|
|SaMD||software as a medical device|
|SAMHSA||Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration|
|TEFCA||Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement|
|USMLE||United States Medical Licensing Examination|
|VA||U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs|
|WHO||World Health Organization|
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