Thriving physicians equal better care for patients

Dr. Sinsky: “Care of the patients requires care of the providers.”

Christine Sinsky, MD, joined this year’s AAD Plenary session as the featured guest speaker. Dr. Sinksy is a practicing internist and the vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association, as well as an acclaimed national and international lecturer. Her presentation “In Search of Joy in Medicine” focused on the important role that stakeholders — organizational leaders, policy makers, technology vendors, and claims payers — play in creating an environment that fosters purpose, meaning, and joy in which physicians and health care professionals can thrive.

Dermatology World Meeting News interviewed Dr. Sinsky to learn more about the effects that physician well-being have on patient care and the future of medicine.

Why is physician well-being such an important driver of health care performance?
Dr. Sinsky: When patients receive care from physicians who are thriving, who find joy and fulfillment in work, their care is better. Conversely, when patients receive care from professionals who are burned out, the care is less effective and less safe, and it is also likely to be more costly.

What are the main things physicians should consider when searching for the “joy in medicine?”
Dr. Sinsky: An efficient, well-supported workflow and an organizational culture that promotes humanity in health care are two critical factors that can improve joy in medicine. In fact, workflow improvements have an odds ratio of six of reducing burnout. In many specialties, physicians and their teams can save several hours every day by reengineering the way work is done — eliminating work that doesn’t add value to the patient and strategically delegating some tasks to non-physician members of the team. Some of this time can be given back to patients, with a less hurried pace; some can be given back to the organization, with greater citizenship; and some can be given back to one’s personal life, with more time for friends, family, and refreshment.

What are the key points you hope attendees took away from your presentation?
Dr. Sinsky: One key point is that care of the patients requires care of the providers. Health care organizations, as well as regulators and policy makers, have a responsibility to ensure that the work asked of physicians is doable. I believe that we can reduce burnout, improve joy in medicine, and share bright spots.

Another key point is that the absence of joy in medicine is costly to organizations, with higher rates of medical error, lower patient satisfaction, and higher turnover among those who are burned out. Investments in creating a more supportive, effective work environment are expected to pay off with improved retention of physicians and better outcomes for patients. I believe that the [health care] organizations that will thrive in the future are those that put the well-being of their workforce front and center in their dashboard of priorities. I believe that the way to achieve the “Triple Aim” of better care for individuals, better health for the population, at lower cost, is to consider the fourth aim of health professional well-being — thus the term the “Quadruple Aim.”

To read more about the “Quadruple Aim” and Dr. Sinksy’s research on physician satisfaction, view the following articles.


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