A leading contributor to physician burnout is sometimes overwhelming load of the varied tasks they perform daily. For each 10% drop in task load, there are 33% lower odds of experiencing physician burnout, according to a national survey whose results were published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. The relationship between a physician’s task load and burnout signals a need for health systems to enhance their focus to improve the practice environment and, consequently, doctors’ well-being.

“Medicine is a mentally and physically taxing career. Some features of the environment, such as poorly implemented technology and low-value administrative tasks, add greatly to the cognitive workload,” said Dr. Sinsky. “Our study demonstrates that greater cognitive workload, as measured with a standardized instrument, is associated with higher levels of burnout.”

Looking at whether task load correlated with physician burnout scores between October 2017 and March 2018, the survey showed that 38.8% reported high emotional exhaustion, 27.4% experienced depersonalization and 44% exhibited at least one symptom of burnout. Additionally, the physician task load score was 260.9 out of 400, which was measured by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Task Load Index (TLX).

The NASA TLX didn’t measure individual tasks, but looked at mental, physical and temporal demands, and perception of effort. Physicians were asked to rate their score on an interval scale ranging from low to high. For example, tasks that might make doctors feel rushed or have difficulty performing at the level they strive for are computerized order entry, visit note documentation, multiple security logins, and perfunctory and low-value—but mandatory—organizational compliance modules.

“Many practices and policies that add burden to the physician’s workday may not have a strong evidence base or may have outlived their utility,” she said. “Practice leaders can improve the environment” by eliminating policies that are outdated or lack a strong evidence basis.

Health care organizations should focus on reducing administrative burdens to improve professional satisfaction. The AMA offers a lot of great how-to advice on accomplishing that vital goal.

The AMA’s STEPS Forward™ open-access modules offer innovative strategies that allow physicians and their staff to thrive in the new health care environment. These courses can help you prevent physician burnout, create the organizational foundation for joy in medicine and improve practice efficiency.

To boost productivity, AMA STEPS Forward offers a series of CME modules on team-based care and workflows. Each module is enduring material and designated by the AMA for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

The modules are part of the AMA Ed Hub™, an online platform with high-quality CME and education that supports the professional development needs of physicians and other health professionals. With topics relevant to you, it also offers an easy, streamlined way to find, take, track and report educational activities.

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Source: AMA, https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/even-small-drop-task-load-can-cut-odds-physician-burnout

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