Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit

Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit


McAneny BL. Stop blaming the doctor! Presented at: Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit; Aug 24-26, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Healio could not confirm relevant financial disclosures for McAneny at the time of reporting.
August 27, 2021
3 min read

Former AMA president calls for physicians to ’get back our control’ of patient management


McAneny BL. Stop blaming the doctor! Presented at: Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit; Aug 24-26, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Healio could not confirm relevant financial disclosures for McAneny at the time of reporting.
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Physicians can reduce stress and improve workplace enrichment by spending more time with patients and less time bogged down with bureaucratic tasks, according to a presentation at the Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit.

“It’s not yoga (and) I don’t think it’s resilience training. ... We have to pull ourselves back into the profession and look at teams that must be led by physicians,” medical oncologist Barbara L. McAneny, MD, FASCO, MACP, former AMA president and current CEO of New Mexico Cancer Center and New Mexico Oncology Hematology Consultants Ltd., told session attendees. “We have to stop wasting time on meaningless tasks, and we have to get back our control of how this profession is managing patients.”

Patients in Waiting Room
Source: Adobe Stock.

McAneny’s comments came during her presentation “Burnout: Stop blaming the doctor!” on Day 3 of the summit.

“We need to have physician-led teams,” she said at the end of the session. “We have to run our own practices. We need to have financial systems that pay us well for what we do. And we need to have time for our doctor-patient relationship.”

As someone who has practiced medicine for more than 40 years and risen through the field, culminating with being named 173rd president of the AMA in 2018, McAneny infused her 22-minute presentation with decades of experience.

Photo of Barbara McAneny
Barbara L. McAneny

“I heard a lot and concluded a few things that are a little bit different from the standard party line about burnout. ... I want very much to see if we can control this,” McAneny said. “This is killing physicians across the country and it’s even affecting medical students.”

McAneny pointed out that burnout in the medical community isn’t necessarily new — she referenced articles from “20-25 years ago” — but added that it’s increasing, as reflected by survey results and statistics, including suicide rates.

“If you look at these numbers, you’ll see the dissatisfaction among physicians is not a trend that we really like,” she said. “If you pick a career that’s as demanding as being a physician, hopefully it creates some degree of personal satisfaction because, as we know, that really reports better outcomes.”

Physician dissatisfaction and burnout increase costs of care and risk for medical errors and poor decision-making, while negatively impacting physician cognitive function and capacity, professionalism and compassion, as well as reimbursement, quality of outcomes and patient compliance to plans of care, according to McAneny.

“It adversely impacts health care; outcomes are simply not as good,” McAneny said. “If a physician is burnt out and just cannot focus on the details that make up health care — the details that make up the patient’s situation — then you risk missing things.

“We know that cost of care goes up,” she added. “And we know that if you’re not fully engaged and able to listen to exactly what a patient is telling you, that you run the risk of missing that diagnosis, or you’re not making the proper decision that you should have made at that point.”

Physicians can be advocates for themselves, but McAneny suggested the onus is on CEOs of hospitals and administrators of institutions to reprioritize the responsibilities of the clinicians they employ. She called for less time filling out bureaucratic paperwork and “quality measure” box-checking and more time on the human-to-human, doctor-patient interactions, especially during a time when the latter has suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We give a lot to the patients, but the patients give a lot to us, too,” McAneny said. “That feeling that you helped another human being get through something that was hard — that you actually accomplished something that made a difference in someone’s life — it helps us survive. And without that, it leads to burnout.”

McAneny said physicians are in a position to empower their profession amid a rise in burnout because, without them, health care systems and those who manage them would suffer in a measure they can’t ignore: revenue.

“Think about the physician shortage we already have. It is significant,” she said. “There may be 100,000 fewer physicians than we need, and if people start leaving, the burden of care falls on the people who remain, which increases their level of stress. We all need — all of us — to be able to continue to function. If we lose almost 5,000 physicians in the next couple of years, the population is going to be seriously hurting.

“The bottom line for the hospitals, for the CEOs, is it costs almost a million dollars to replace a physician,” McAneny said. “If you lose a surgeon, the economic engines of hospitals, then you really impact the hospitals’ bottom line, and that got their attention.”