EAU 2019: How Does Burnout Affect Patient Outcome?

Barcelona, Spain (UroToday.com) Physician burnout is an increasingly recognized and rapidly growing concern in the medical community, particularly in the United States. Beyond its impact on the system, it has severe consequences for both the physician and the patients they treat – and if not recognized, can have dire consequences. Defined by most sources as a combination of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment, burnout has reached greater than 50% amongst some specialties. Indeed, according to the 2019 Medscape “National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019,” urology tops the list of specialties with burnout. Topping the list of reasons for burnout include: “too many bureaucratic tasks,” such as charting and paperwork, and spending too many hours at work. 

Burnout is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and shorter life expectancy, problematic alcohol use, broken relationships, depression, and suicide – all significant effects on the physician themselves. However, as physicians are responsible for patient care, physician burnout can result in increased patient safety incidents, low professional outcomes, and lower patient satisfaction scores.

In the study by Panagioti et al. (JAMA Internal Medicine 2018)1, the authors completed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the association between physician burnout and patient safety, professionalism and patient satisfaction scores. Not unsurprisingly, physician burnout was a strong predictor of increasing patient safety incidents, low professionalism outcomes, and low patient satisfaction scores!

This is an epidemic with far-reaching consequences on both the physician and the patient and requires investment from the administration and senior members of all departments.

Presented by: Professor Thorsten Bach, MD Asklepios Klinik Harburg, Department of Urology, Hamburg, Germany

Written by: Thenappan Chandrasekar, MD (Clinical Instructor, Thomas Jefferson University) (twitter: @tchandra_uromd, @JEFFUrology) at the 34th European Association of Urology (EAU 2019) #EAU19 conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 15-19, 2019.

1. Panagioti et al. Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Oct 1;178(10):1317-1330. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3713.