SCGhealth Blog

Know the Signs of Physician Burnout

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

By Audrey Landers

During Mental Health month it’s important to think not only of your patients but also yourself. According to Medscape’s 2018 National Physician Burnout & Depression Report, as many as 42% of physicians feel that they are burned out. So often articles on this subject will focus on how burnout affects patient care and practice revenue, anything but the one person it affects the most: the physician.

No one wants to admit that they are under too much stress, physicians especially are often nervous about seeking help because they are afraid that it may reflect poorly on their ability to provide for patients. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for physician burnout to become worse over time. If ignored, physician burnout can be fatal. In fact, the average physician will lose eight colleagues to suicide during their career.

High occurrences of burnout have been recorded in physicians since the 1800s and it’s pretty clear why: Between the grueling hours and stress filled working environments, many physicians don’t have the opportunity to put their work behind them even for a moment.

What is Physician Burnout?
Physician burnout, sometimes called career fatigue, is exhaustion that is caused by extreme prolonged stress. It can penetrate every part of your life, causing physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It can cause a physician to become depressed and lose all sense of personal accomplishment as well as make it difficult to focus on work.

Recognizing Burnout
Knowing that you are burnt out and need help is the first step. Take the time this month, and every month, to recognize the signs of burnout:

You feel that you are not as engaged with your peers as you once were.
While not many physicians will admit they aren’t as engaged with patients, in Medscape’s survey 42% of physicians with some form of depression acknowledged that they are less engaged with staff and colleagues. You may miss details of what they say, or respond late. You may also be more irritable around them and get frustrated more easily when they make mistakes. 

You don’t have time for yourself
On average, physicians work nearly 60 hours a week, a number that most Americans would find completely unacceptable in the long-term. Once you factor in things like average daily commute (one hour) average time spend cleaning and cooking each day (two hours) and eight hours for sleep, there’s only about four hours of free time left each day. And four hours might sound great until you get around to dividing them up between interactions with friends and family, obligations like pet care, and incidentals like being stuck on the highway an extra 30 minutes because of an accident a few miles down the road. You might begin to realize that you don’t actually have as much time for yourself as you thought.

You don’t have enough time for your patients
More than 50% of physicians agree that their work is often bogged down with bureaucratic tasks, regulations, and increased computerization of their workplace. These tasks don’t feel important when you have patients you need to see and every paper, every chart, and every button click only gets in the way of you doing your job.

You could describe yourself as depressed
This may seem obvious but that makes it no less true. Whether you feel you could be clinically depressed or only depressed in the colloquial sense, this feeling is a sign of burnout. Especially if you feel the depression is mainly caused by work and would go away if you were to enter another career.

If you feel that these signs describe you, you are not alone. Over half a million physicians in the US alone suffer from some form of burnout.

Screen for Depression During Mental Health Awareness Month

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

By Audrey Landers

Depression is an often misunderstood and underestimated mental illness. Many consider it to be a simple sadness that can be powered through, but that could not be further from the truth. Sadness is a normal human emotion, and one that can often help to make a person stronger by learning to deal with it. It is caused by difficult, upsetting and hurtful events. With sadness, there is a resolution to work towards or a lesson to learn that can help one overcome it. Depression is another beast entirely. Depression is not triggered by any particular event and causes those who suffer from it to feel worthless, hopeless, and unmotivated in every situation. Depression can change a person’s personality, make them have thoughts of death or suicide and make them lose interest in things they once loved. Unlike sadness, depression is long-lasting, with symptoms lasting more than two weeks and occurring chronically.

It is estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, with approximately 16 million American adults having suffered at least one depressive episode in the last year. 

Screen for Depression and Report MIPS Measures
Throughout the year you can do your part to bring awareness to depression by screening for it, which coincidentally will allow you to report the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) Measure 134: Preventive Care and Screenings: Screening for Depression and Follow-up Plan. The measure should be reported at least once for each patient age 12 and older seen during the performance period. If the screening is positive, there must be a documented follow-up.

The accepted exceptions for this measure are patient refusal, an urgent situation, and decreased functional capacity seen in the patient.

Quality Data Code  Performance  Service Provided 
 G8431  Performance Met

Screening for depression is documented as positive
a follow-up plan is documented

 G8510  Performance Met
Screening for depression is documented as negative

 G8433  Denominator Exception

Screening for depression not completed
reason documented

 G8432  Performance Not Met
Depression screening not documented

 G8511  Performance Not Met

Screening for depression is documented as positive
no reason documented

In addition to this MIPS measure, SCG Health has also licensed the Qualified Clinical Data Registery (QCDR) Measure MSSIC1: Pre-Surgical Screening for Depression. This measure, created by the Michigan Spine Surgery Improvement Collaborative, is similar to MIPS 134 but is only performed before a surgical procedure.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health America first started the awareness campaign in 1948, this year the theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body. MHA hopes this theme will help bring awareness to the connection between mental health and fitness. The organization will be distributing information on topics like nutrition, exercise and sleep throughout the month to encourage people across the country to do what they can to better both their physical and mental health.

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