Patient outcomes are path to reducing physician burnout, 1 CMO says

Physician burnout will continue to be "a serious threat to patient care" until the nation moves from a volume-based system to a value-based system, Ben Kornitzer, MD, chief medical officer at Austin, Texas-based Agilon Health, wrote in an opinion piece posted July 15 on kevinmd.com.

Burned-out physicians are less effective healers who make more clinical errors and do not connect as well with patients. Nearly 30,000 adult primary care physicians left the practice of medicine last year while more cut back clinical hours or retired prematurely. Healthcare will continue to suffer until the system makes a change, Dr. Kornitzer wrote.

Drivers of burnout include fee-for-service reimbursements, which force physicians to cram more visits into their office hours to make their practice economically viable, he said. 

"By contrast, physicians compensated on patient outcomes — keeping patients well and out of the hospital — do not need to see 25 or 30 patients per day to keep their practice running," Dr. Kornitzer wrote. "Value-based care can also ease documentation requirements, a major driver of physician dissatisfaction. Value-based care centers capture only essential data for improving patient outcomes, freeing up physicians to focus on patient care, even if there isn't an associated billing code."

A healthcare model that incentivizes quality over quantity could see better patient outcomes and allow physicians to be more effective healers. "We have lost our way in fee-for-service medicine; we can regain it through value-based care," he wrote.

"On my very first day of medical school, a professor welcomed us to this noble guild by saying the greatest thing a physician can be is useful. In a mature, value-based care practice, everything — from scheduling to staffing configurations to patient outreach efforts — is designed to make physicians more useful, keeping patients healthy and independent," Dr. Kornitzer wrote.

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