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Provider Burnout Associated with Low-Quality Care, Safety

December 21, 2016

Higher levels of health care provider burnout may be linked to worsened patient care and safety across all medical specialties, according to a recent meta-analysis.

This affect appeared across all medical specialties, and was unaffected by study size, Michelle Salyers, PhD, professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, wrote in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

"While burnout is not the primary cause of poor quality health care nor the primary cause of patient safety issues, links between provider burnout and care quality and patient safety are real and should be recognized," Dr Salyers said in a press release.

Dr Salyers and colleagues conducted a quantitative electronic review of published and unpublished studies investigating provider burnout across medical specialties. All studies included in the final analysis included empirical data assessing the relationship between burnout and patient satisfaction, quality of care or safety. Researchers evaluated each study for design quality, and assessed the findings for outliers, study rigor and publication biases.

Among the 82 studies and 210,669 providers included in the final analysis, Dr Salyers and colleagues found significant relationships between provider burnout and health care quality (r = –0.26; 95% CI, –0.29 to –0.23) and safety (R = –-0.23; 95% CI, –0.28 to –0.17). These negative relationships were also present for perceived quality, including patient satisfaction, and perceptions of patient safety. Study size did not appear to impact the effect on either quality or safety.

"We found a consistent relationship—technically a medium effect size—between higher levels of provider burnout and lower levels of both quality and safety," Dr Salyers said. "Our work provides a message for health care funders, policymakers and those who 'run' health care in a variety of settings—clinic, hospital and system administrators—that as they work to improve patient outcomes and safety, they should pay attention to the well-being of their workforce." —Dave Muoio

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