Edward M. Ellison, MD, underscores need to address total cost of physician burnout

Edward Ellison, MD

In a recent opinion piece for the Annals of Internal Medicine, Permanente Federation co-CEO Edward M. Ellison, MD, highlights the importance of addressing the total cost of physician burnout.

In “Beyond the Economics of Burnout,” Dr. Ellison writes in support of a study by Shasha Han, MS, and others titled “Estimating the Attributable Cost of Physician Burnout in the United States.” That study shows that a conservative base-model estimates about $4.6 billion in costs related to physician turnover and reduced clinical hours is attributable to burnout each year in the United States.

The estimate of the costs of physician burnout in the nation “is a valuable step in an overdue and important conversation we need to have in the health care community,” Dr. Ellison says in his editorial.

However,  Dr. Ellison adds to the discussion three additional observations, which he supports with information and data:

  • Physician burnout negatively affects health care affordability.
  • The non-financial, human costs associated with burnout are very real and alarming, with 43.9% of physicians reporting one or more symptoms of burnout in 2017.
  • A fully integrated health care delivery model allows organizations such as the Southern California Permanente Medical Group to take an intentional, holistic view of the physician work environment, and to implement strategies that enhance physicians’ well-being.

Dr. Ellison serves as executive medical director and chairman of the board of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, which appointed a physician chief wellness officer in 2013. He also serves as CEO and chairman of The Southeast Permanente Medical Group, and has spoken broadly on the topic of physician burnout, including at a CNBC event last week where he addressed physician suicides.

To read Dr. Ellison’s complete editorial, visit the Annals of Internal Medicine website. The editorial was also mentioned in other media coverage, including in Time.com, Business Insider, and Fierce Healthcare.

Watch a video below of Dr. Ellison speaking on his editorial: