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Blog | Physician Relationships

Healthcare News of Note: U.S. Surgeon General says the nation must stop health worker burnout

Blog | Physician Relationships

Healthcare News of Note: U.S. Surgeon General says the nation must stop health worker burnout

  • Excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling and lack of organizational support are some of the societal, cultural, structural and organizational factors that have contributed to burnout among U.S. health workers.
  • A new coalition that was launched in May aims to address health disparities for low-income, minority and underserved populations across the United States through digital health.
  • More than a third of respondents to a survey of ACOs providing home-based services said they would expand services only if they could demonstrate positive ROI.

Over the last few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.   

1. Surgeon General: Why the nation must stop health worker burnout

“The nation’s health depends on the well-being of our health workforce,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, in a May 23 advisory. “Confronting the long-standing drivers of burnout among our health workers must be a top national priority.”

Some key takeaways from the advisory include:

  • Excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling and lack of organizational support are some of the societal, cultural, structural and organizational factors that have contributed to burnout among U.S. health workers.
  • Physician demand will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033, with the main gaps expected in primary care and rural communities. 
  • If not addressed, the health worker burnout crisis will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it, cause health costs to rise, hinder the nation’s ability to prepare for the next public health emergency and worsen health disparities.

“When health workers look ahead, they should see a future where their dedication isn’t taken for granted, and where their health, safety, and well-being is as much a priority as the well-being of the people and communities in their care,” Murthy wrote.

6 steps healthcare organizations can take to prevent burnout

The advisory also provides detailed steps healthcare organizations, governments, health insurers and several other industry sectors can take to prevent health worker burnout and “provide our health workforce with all that they need to heal and to thrive.”

According to the report, healthcare organizations can take the following steps:

  1. Build a commitment to the health and safety of health workers into the fabric of organizations.
  2. Review and revise policies to ensure health workers are not deterred from seeking appropriate care for their physical health, mental health and/or substance use challenges.
  3. Increase access to high-quality, confidential mental health and substance use care for all health workers.
  4. Rebuild community and social connections among health workers to mitigate burnout and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  5. Combat bias, racism and discrimination in the workplace.
  6. Invest in health prevention and social services to address health inequities and reduce strain on health workers.

2. A newly launched coalition’s focus on digital health will help address health disparities for specific populations

A newly formed coalition, which plans to focus on the use of digital health to address the health disparities affecting low-income, minority and underserved populations across the United States, was launched May 19, according to a news release.

“The Digital Health for Equitable Health (DHEH) Alliance will champion policies and programs meant to increase equitable access to quality healthcare by building upon innovations in digital health, telemedicine, wearables, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more to advance public health and well-being,” according to the release.

Tanisha Hill, MPH, founder and president of DHEH and U.S. senior medical director, respiratory and digital health medical lead, at Teva Pharmaceuticals, said in a LinkedIn post, “We formed a coalition because we believe that by joining together we can leverage passion, expertise, and resources to affect change. We are proud to have tremendous leadership in our DHEH members and representation of the voices of the people we intend to serve.”

Partners in the coalition include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Howard University College of Medicine, the African American Wellness Project, Black Women's Health Imperative, Allergy and Asthma Network, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Meharry Medical College, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Patientory Foundation, HALO for Families, and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

3. 38% of ACOs surveyed say they need to see positive ROI before they will expand home-based services

More than a third of accountable care organizations (ACOs) that deliver home-based services and  responded to a survey conducted in 2019 “reported they would expand [services] only if they could demonstrate positive ROI,” according to an abstract published in the May issue of The American Journal of Managed Care.

In addition, 40% of respondents reported already planning to expand their home-based programs, wrote the study authors. “However, measuring ROI was identified as a major challenge by 45% of programs and a moderate challenge by 26%.”

The home-visit services provided by these ACOs include primary care, acute medical care, palliative care, care transitions and interventions to address social determinants of health, according to the authors.

The authors concluded, “Many services provided are not billable, and therefore ACO leaders are hesitant to fund expansions without strong evidence of ROI. Expanding Medicare ACO home-visit waivers to all risk-bearing ACOs and covering integrated telehealth services would improve the financial viability of these programs.”

Additional findings

  • Some of the other findings pertaining to ACOs in the study include:
  • A quarter had formal home-based care programs, 25% offered occasional home visits and 17% were actively developing new programs.
  • Half of home-based care programs were established within the past three years.
  • The programs utilized multidisciplinary care teams, but two-thirds had fewer than 500 visits annually.
  • Funding sources included direct billing for services, health system subsidies and ACO shared savings.

HFMA bonus content

  • Articles from the summer issue of hfm magazine are now available online. Read all of the original content, including the cover story introducing HFMA’s incoming Chair Aaron Crane .
  • Register for HFMA’s Annual Conference to be held June 26-29 in Denver.        
  • Read the article, “Hospital prices increasingly are coming under a microscope,” by Nick Hut, a senior editor at HFMA.

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor with HFMA in Westchester, Ill. 

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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