Physician burnout and turnover have contributed to a growing physician shortage across the United States — one that has only gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges projected last year that the physician shortage could reach 139,000 by 2033. What’s more, the physician turnover rate — which is typically 6% to 7% per year — rose significantly post-pandemic, with 28% of healthcare leaders reporting the unexpected retirement of a physician.
It’s no surprise then that 72% of practices are planning to hire new physicians in 2021.
But what can practice leaders do to eliminate burnout so physician turnover doesn’t continue to be such a concern?
The key is to start by understanding physician burnout by diagnosing its causes and consequences. Practice leaders then need to learn best practices for successfully recruiting and retaining staff for the long run.
The challenges of physician burnout and staffing issues
Physician burnout has been plaguing the healthcare industry for years, with many physicians experiencing poor work-life balance, emotional fatigue, and growing stress. Much of this burnout is a result of time-consuming administrative burdens that lead to long days and ultimately impact the actual care they’re able to provide to patients.
According to RAND Health, when a physician’s quality of care is compromised by bureaucratic and administrative obstacles, their dissatisfaction and burdens grow.
The truth is, burnout doesn’t just impact employee satisfaction. Practices risk substantial revenue loss as a result of employee turnover and staffing issues. For example:
- Finding and filling open physician positions is extremely time-consuming — for example, it can take over seven months on average to fill a family medicine role.
- A single physician vacancy can lead to $130,000 - $150,000 per month in lost revenue.
- Staffing issues are a limiting factor for practices trying to restore visit volumes post-pandemic.
Despite the glaring problems with physician turnover and its financial implications, only 14% of healthcare leaders have a formal strategy to reduce physician burnout and 83% of physicians say their organizations don’t have a physician retention program in place.
Safe to say, it’s time for practice leaders to prioritize workplace culture strategies that reduce burnout and increase physician engagement and satisfaction.
7 ways to create and execute an effective physician retention program
Having a formal physician retention program will ultimately help you improve productivity and overall staff well-being — and will likely cost less time and money than turnover and vacancies.
The key is to focus on strategies that will work for your particular practice, and that starts by engaging with physicians and staff on what they want and/or need to improve their employee satisfaction and overall work-life balance.
To get started, here are seven ways to create and execute an effective physician retention program:
- Build a physician retention committee: Committees provide a great opportunity for you to gather feedback from physicians and show them that you are actively listening to their concerns and feedback.
- Offer competitive compensation: Compensation packages go a long way in making physicians feel valued for their experience and expertise — plus, they can help set you apart from other practices looking to hire the same candidates.
- Recognize performance: Give praise to physicians and staff for going above and beyond. Recognition is especially important now, as pandemic-related stress is at an all-time high.
- Foster mentorship and/or leadership opportunities: Show your employees that you want to help them advance in their careers with opportunities to learn from their peers, mentors, and/or leaders in their specialty.
- Encourage WFH days: Let physicians work remotely on days that they have video visits or if they need to catch up on administrative tasks like paperwork or insurance filings.
- Prioritize high-quality care: As we mentioned previously, physician satisfaction is directly linked to the perception of care a physician provides. If you take steps to deliver an excellent patient experience — one that doesn’t involve long wait times or customer service and communication issues — physicians will have more time to visit with patients and deliver the best care possible.
- Improve technology & integrations: While physicians recognize the need for EHRs, they cite poor EHR technology as a major trigger for professional dissatisfaction — specifically, characteristics like poor usability, time-consuming data entry, difficulty exchanging health information, and poor clinical documentation. Needless to say, better EHR usability and integrations across other systems will go a long way in easing burnout, increasing satisfaction and improving operational productivity for physicians.
While fostering an engaging and positive workplace culture is one way to improve physician satisfaction, maximizing workflow efficiencies will ease the administrative burdens felt by physicians and the rest of your practice staff — leading to happier employees and, in turn, happier patients.
At the end of the day, physician burnout can be prevented — especially with the help of technology solutions like Klara that automate routine patient communications, enable better team collaboration and ease EHR frustrations. Streamlining processes and implementing helpful tools will ultimately lead to better patient outcomes, increased revenues and improved operational productivity for all teams.