Study finds physician satisfaction not associated with better quality care

Although high levels of job satisfaction can improve burnout and retention rates, enjoying the practice of medicine does not appear to be correlated to better quality care or fewer medical errors, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Researchers measured job satisfaction as well as patient and clinician outcomes at a baseline and again one year later. They polled 168 clinicians across 34 medical practices. In the baseline year, 74 percent of clinicians reported joy in practice. Satisfied clinicians were associated with less chaotic work environments, more cohesive workplace culture, better communication, greater trust and greater alignment of values between leadership and employees, according to the study. Satisfaction at the baseline was associated with lower stress and burnout, and less desire to leave the group or practice.

A year later, those who reported improved job satisfaction were found to be nearly three times less likely to report burnout and more than eight times as likely to report intentions to stick with the job. The study was conducted from 2011-14. However, researchers noted no changes in care quality or frequency of medical errors. They suggest improved job satisfaction and retention over a period of time longer than the study could lead to better care coordination and therefore better outcomes.

"Improvements in quality and errors may take longer or stronger interventions," the study authors wrote. "[C]linician satisfaction may be more important in terms of morale, loyalty to the organization, and reductions in turnover than in terms of direct improvements in patient satisfaction and other patient outcomes."


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