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Physician Burnout May Jeopardize Patient Safety

A recent JAMA report analyzed the effects of physician burnout on health care delivery with a meta-analysis of 47 studies on 42 473 physicians in quantitative observational studies.

The primary outcomes were the quantitative associations between burnout and patient safety, professionalism, and patient satisfaction.

Physician burnout was associated with an increased risk of patient safety incidents (OR, 1.96), poorer quality of care due to low professionalism (OR, 2.31) and reduced patient satisfaction (OR, 2.28).

Even though study heterogeneity was high and study quality was low to moderate, these findings are troubling.  Furthermore the associations between burnout and low professionalism were moreso in residents and early-career (≤5 years post residency) physicians compared with middle- and late-career physicians (p = .003).

These findings underscore the need for systematic assessments of physician wellness and the need to optimize patient care and safety through interventions designed to minimize such risk. Moreover these interventions should target all physicians and not just late career physicians as it appears that early-career physicians may be at greater risk.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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