Addressing burnout is profitable! In a world emphasizing profit, perhaps economic benefits should be one of the main arguments for promoting burnout interventions. Without such an argument, leaders of the field might assume that costs outweigh benefit and the status quo is acceptable. But if one could show that implementing a wellness and resiliency program is simple and provides a high return on investment, then the decision would be obvious.
I am optimistic that, once quantified, the benefits of burnout interventions are likely to be substantial and the costs bearable. Few would argue that the existing system is providing the most efficient use of resources. There are many possible changes, and if we alter the training and practice of medicine, it is likely to decrease burnout, decrease costs, and increase patient care efficiency.
To reach that conclusion, we need to assess cost savings related to:
- decreased medical errors as a result of providers experiencing better physical and mental well-being
- increased retention of physicians who might otherwise quit or leave the practice of medicine
Additionally, we need to look at possible improved revenue generation by:
- removing time per patient that is not adding value to the encounter (e.g., charting)
- improving workflow, as some of the burnout is due to frustration with inefficient workflow
- increasing job performance and commitment to practice outcomes
We also need to assess new costs due to interventions, such as:
- decreased work hours due to decreased patient workload or billing
- time spent on stress reduction, resiliency, and wellness training efforts or other adjustments
Assessing these new costs may seem to lack compassion, but to make a sound economic argument to CEOs and hospital investors about changing the status quo, we must be honest about all costs involved in providing a more humane, rewarding, and less stressful practice environment.
It’s uncomfortable to say this, but if the leaders of medicine were motivated to create a system in which staff wellness is a top priority and staff well-being was emphasized, would the current system exist? Should we assume that changes that decrease burnout were made because of compassion? Or perhaps we should assume that leaders who are making changes have already started looking at the economic costs and benefits and calculated the economic benefit.
So, let’s come up with solutions, but at the same time let’s make sure we are assessing all the costs/benefits of implementing burnout interventions. We may be pleasantly surprised that the argument for an intervention and or change is persuasive.
Our project is attempting to not only create a cost-effective intervention, but to also help organizations measure the impact of our intervention and other interventions. In BurntOut, medical students are immersed in a virtual reality environment where they practice coping strategies to improve resilience. The BurntOut role-playing experience delivers targeted, realistic narratives and hands-on scenarios to deepen medical student understanding of how to address and overcome burnout during game-play and beyond.