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Can Physician Burnout Impact Patient Outcomes?

January 26, 2018
Researchers assessed the potential relationship between practitioner burnout and patient-reported pain relief.

A PPM Brief

Burnout among pain practitioners, and its potential impact on patient outcomes, was reviewed in a newly published article by Riquelme et al

Researchers assessed the potential relationships between physicians approaching burnout and three clinical outcomes: pain relief, satisfaction with pain control, and quality of life. The observational, noncomparative study was conducted among pain medicine clinics in Spain and used a variety of surveys to measure patient expectations and improvement.

Findings demonstrated that of the 301 physician participants evaluated, only 22 met burnout criteria. According to the published abstract, burnout was reportedly higher among pain unit physicians. None of the 35 primary care physicians reported burnout. Relationships between burnout and patients’ pain relief were positively associated, whereas patient satisfaction with pain control and quality of life were not. Researchers concluded a lack of clinical relevance between physician burnout and chronic pain patient outcomes. Or interest, but perhaps not surprising, was the significant association of patient-reported worse pain relief, lower satisfaction, and worse quality of life with pain physicians in particular compared with other specialty doctors.

In related news, Medscape released its 2018 report on physician burnout and depression, featuring 15,000 physician responses among 29 specialties. Of those, 42% reported burnout. (In 2015, this number was 46% ). Among those feeling burned out, the highest rates (46% to 48%) work in critical care and neurology, family medicine, and obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians accounted for 44% of those reporting to be burned out. Pain medicine was not specifically called out.

Those who reported burnout responded that it primarily stemmed from bureaucratic tasks, such as paperwork.


Last updated on: April 6, 2018
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