The relationship between burnout and practice management

Burnout can be the result of many factors, not the least of which has been the pandemic that healthcare providers have endured over the past two years. Even in “normal” times, though, burnout is a major concern that can cause issues for healthcare providers as well as for their patients. The relationship between burnout and practice management can be addressed with a few key steps focused on improving the health and well-being of everyone involved.

Practice management includes the administrative functions of operating an independent healthcare practice. Complying with changing regulations, dealing with staffing issues, managing the revenue cycle, and all other general business processes are integral to a successful practice management approach. Burnout from ineffective or inefficient practice management strategies can impact all members of the team, including administrative and clinical staff.

Research has found a number of factors contributing to physician burnout, including:

  • Decreased control over the work environment
  • Loss of autonomy
  • Loss of support from colleagues
  • Inefficient use of time due to administrative requirements.

In particular, studies have found that clerical work intrudes on the provider’s time and that can result in:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • A diminished sense of personal success
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicidal ideations.

The relationship between burnout and practice management is centered on inefficient work processes and environments. The clerical burden that providers feel, especially when their activities do not contribute directly to their core meaning as a physician, can contribute significantly to their burnout tendencies. When the provider must put in extra hours on administrative tasks, that can also contribute to their stress.

Research has found that physicians who spend less than 20% of their work effort on activities they find meaningful personally are almost three times more likely to be burned out than providers who spend at least 20% of their work effort on a meaningful activity.

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Optimizing practice management is critical for the independent physician to continue providing the personalized, high quality care for patients that is so important in today’s healthcare environment. Small, physician-owned practices have been shown to have lower average costs per patient, fewer preventable hospital admissions, and a lower readmission rate than larger practices and hospital-owned organizations.

Best practices in practice management include:

Optimizing front-end processes. Patient registration and insurance eligibility verification are key aspects of the front-end process that must be streamlined so the process is efficient and the information gathered is accurate. Timely reimbursement depends on complete and correct data in the patient record from the very beginning of the process.

Outsource when possible and when necessary. The independent practice is a small business and many small businesses outsource administrative tasks so they can be more efficient and focused on their core operations. In particular, outsourcing practice management and revenue cycle management can be an attractive option for a practice short on staff or resources.

Take advantage of technology. Using the latest in available technology enables administrative and clinical staff to streamline the practice management process as well as the core activity of providing quality care for patients. Technology can be used for financial analytics and to ensure patient records are current and accurate.