Peer comparison linked to increased physician burnout: study

Physicians who are compared to one another report lower job satisfaction and higher levels of burnout, according to a Sept. 28 research brief in UCLA's Anderson Review. 

The brief analyzes a five-month study of 199 physicians and 46,631 patients within the UCLA Health System. The study was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers divided the physicians into three groups. The first was sent their patients' track record of scheduling preventive care tests compared with other physicians, including a ranking of the 25 "top performing" physicians. The second was also sent the comparative record, but under a leadership team trained to create a "supportive and collaborative framework for the 'why' behind the metrics used in the comparisons." The third group, a control, received no comparative record. 

Physicians in the control group and the group with the trained leadership team reported significantly higher job satisfaction — and less burnout — than physicians in the first group.

Additionally, physicians in the control group and the group with the trained leadership team reported feeling significantly more supported by leadership than physicians in the first group.  

Physicians were frustrated by being reduced to a single metric and by being pit against each other in what should be a collaborative environment, the study's authors said.

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