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The high cost of physician burnout

Plus, academic centers deliver fewer readmissions

July 2019

Published in the July 2019 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

Burnout price tag tops $4 billion a year

PHYSICIAN BURNOUT is in the news again, this time grabbing headlines because of the financial impact. A new study finds that doctor burnout costs the U.S. about $4.6 billion every year.

Researchers say that the estimate, which comes out to about $7,600 per employed doctor every year, may be too low in terms of costs related to physician turnover and reduced clinical productivity. That’s because some costs are harder to quantify, like indirect lost revenue, loss of reputation and disruption to patients.

Other economic effects of burnout include poorer care quality, lower patient satisfaction and malpractice suits. The analysis was published in the June 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
The authors derived their cost estimate from published research findings and industry reports. They say their findings should bolster the case for organizations investing in burnout reduction programs and strategies for physicians. Such investments, they write, should produce “substantial economic value.”

Think care at major teaching hospitals costs more? Think again


Health costsNEW RESEARCH debunks the popular notion that care at major teaching hospitals is more expensive than at nonteaching facilities, at least for Medicare patients.

A study published in June by JAMA Network Open looked at more than 1.2 million hospitalizations in 2014-15. Researchers found that while major teaching hospitals had higher initial costs of hospitalization than nonteaching facilities for common medical and surgical procedures, academic centers had lower 30-day total costs due to lower spending on readmissions and post-acute care.

Further, the study found that being treated at a major teaching hospital was associated with lower physician costs than at minor teaching or nonteaching hospitals, as well as a 7% lower risk of spending on readmissions for medical conditions. The authors also pointed out that the higher initial hospitalization costs they found associated with major teaching hospitals were due in part to “higher outlier payments for the sickest patients.”

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