Task Force for Physician Empowerment makes recommendationsby John Howser Oct. 31, 2017, 10:00 AM
The Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) Task Force for Empowerment and Well-being, a 16-member multidisciplinary group formed earlier this year to develop a deeper understanding of the nationwide problem of physician burnout and suggest solutions at VUMC, has made its initial recommendations.
Acknowledging that physician burnout is an issue at all medical centers, the task force seeks to identify ways to improve physician well-being through sustainable change. Across the U.S. physicians are under increasing stress through longer work hours, a continually changing health care landscape, increasing governmental and regulatory mandates and other factors that erode their ability to spend quality time with patients.
A 2016 analysis conducted by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic of 6,880 physicians evaluated the prevalence of burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance relative to the general U.S. population in years 2011 and 2014. The 2014 follow-up survey found a nearly 10 percent increase of at least one sign of burnout, and varying degrees of burnout among specialties.
The task force was appointed by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of the School of Medicine, and C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer, and is co-chaired by Reid Thompson, M.D., William F. Meacham Professor of Neurological Surgery, and Mary Yarbrough, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Clinical Medicine and executive director of Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness.
“Embracing the importance of their charge, the task force is suggesting a number of near-term actions to help improve workplace satisfaction for our physicians. Guided by their findings, we will be taking initial steps in early 2018, and will follow with additional long-term improvements over the next 12-18 months. We are grateful for the group’s thoughtful approach toward this important work,” Balser said.
The task force’s initial recommendations were informed by a physician survey, “Gathering Physicians’ Perspectives,” recently carried out to establish a baseline and find perspectives. The survey garnered 1,100 respondents, a 43 percent response rate.
The task force’s initial recommendations address broad areas including: culture; staffing support; documentation support; leadership support; skills development; self-care/health and well-being; childcare options; onboarding of new physicians; on-call parking; and methods to track progress and evaluate progress toward physician well-being.
“The task force has identified concerns that matter most to our physicians. We will be working with the Vanderbilt Medical Group Board, Faculty and Physician Wellness Program and the Clinical Enterprise Executive Committee to implement these recommendations in meaningful ways that will yield the greatest impact,” Pinson said.
Among the recommendations is to make well-being a central component of career development, while equipping physician leaders with resources to more effectively engage colleagues and trainees in support for well-being.
Actions that would result in improvements in time and efficiency were highly valued by physicians who responded to the survey, which matches findings of national assessments. The task force recognized the impact of the Epic implementation on physicians, and is informing VUMC’s approach to providing additional staffing support in the immediate period post Go-Live.
“Additionally, in response to the recommendations of the task force, upon completion of Epic Go-Live and stabilization, we will launch a comprehensive analysis of solutions being evaluated across the country and are proving effective in limiting the documentation time demands on clinicians, improving satisfaction at work while refocusing time and energy on direct patient-care activity,” Balser said. “We anticipate these solutions will vary significantly by specialty. We will utilize internal and external resources to identify and resource optimal solutions, tailored to the distinctive clinical work-flow demands in our many specialties.”
Other members of the Task Force include: Bruce Beyer, M.D., Charlene Dewey, M.D., Cristina Estrada, M.D., Jaco Hamman, Ph.D., Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., Sarah Krantz, M.D., Robert Labadie, M.D., Ph.D., Fred Lamb, M.D., Ph.D., Steve Meranze, M.D., Richard Miller, M.D., Paula Smith, M.D., Kyla Terhune, M.D., Liza Weavind, MBBCh, and Beth Ann Yakes, M.D.