What is the ROI on Physician Well Being and Resiliency?

Posted on March 13, 2018 by VITAL WorkLife

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With burnout reaching an estimated 54% of physicians nationwide, healthcare leaders are realizing improving the well being of their physicians is key to keeping their organizations healthy in every way—including at the bottom line. Helping physicians, advanced practitioners and care teams to remain healthy and resilient costs money. And not helping them costs even more— even a modest investment in well being can have a significant return.

Turnover Trouble—and More

A huge hit organizations take due to burnout is turnover. As we note in our article “The High Cost of Physician Burnout in Healthcare Organizations,” a team led by Maryam S. Hamidi, PhD, associate director of scholarship and health promotion at Stanford Medicine WellMD Center in Palo Alto, estimated the organization would lose 58 physicians in a two-year period.

The cost to recruit a new physician runs between $268,000 and $957,000 and the estimated burnout-related departure rate is about 11%. So, replacing burned-out physicians “costs the institution between $15,544,000 and $55,506,000 in a two-year period,” Hamidi says.

In addition, burnout can breed disruptive behavior, medical errors and lowered patient-satisfaction scores. As Charles M. Balch, MD, Julie A. Freischlag, MD and Tait D. Shanafelt, MD write in JAMA Surgery, “Medical errors and patient lack of satisfaction with medical care provided by burned-out physicians also increase the threat of malpractice litigation; hence, physician burnout also poses substantial risk to the economic well being of healthcare organizations.”

No doubt then, anti-burnout (i.e. physician well being and resilience) solutions are valuable. But what about the actual ROI?

In their paper “The Business Case for Investing in Physician Well Being,”, Tait Shanafeldt, MD and colleagues provide a worksheet for organizations to assess ROI (we summarize it in our post) “Right-Sizing Your Physician Well Being Plan to Maximize ROI”. For a hypothetical organization with 450 practitioners, a $1 million investment in physician well being responsible for the rate of burnout from 50 percent to 40 percent can save the organization $1.125 million—an S&P 500-beating 12.5% ROI.

A More Holistic Assessment

Given widespread resistance to investing in physician well being, though, “the need for more holistic assessments of the benefits of organizational interventions [is] apparent,” Maria Pangioti, PHD, of the National Institute of Health Research School for Primary Care Research in the UK tells Medscape Medical News.

“Future trials of organizational interventions for burnout should not only report health outcomes (improvements in burnout scores; turnover rates) but also economic outcomes (cost-effectiveness analyses using these outcomes) if we want to achieve policy change.”

Once they’re convinced of the dollar value as well as the medical value of physician well being and resiliency, what can organizations do?

They can look into what kind of well being programming is appropriate for them. The VITAL WorkLife Physician and Advanced Practitioner Well Being Solutions Survey Report reviews a host of approaches and tactics, along with what practitioners report they most value, will use and appreciate their organizations providing in terms of offered solutions.

Options include physician peer coaching, counseling, financial remuneration for non-clinical duties, EMR/EHR help, on-site stress management facilities and a good deal more. Organizations can also opt to set up well being committees and Chief Well Being Officer positions to continue to look for ways to support their culture and physicians.

Overall, the creation of an institutional culture of care for practitioners— as well as patients— is key in realizing the many-faceted ROI of physician well being.

We Can Help

Interested in investing in physician well being to help create a better workplace culture and save your organization money? Contact us online.


  1. AMA STEPS Forward™, Creating the Organizational Foundation for Joy in Medicine™. https://www.stepsforward.org/modules/joy-in-medicine
  2. “The High Cost of Physician Burnout in Healthcare Organizations” VITAL WorkLife https://vitalworklife.com/blog/2018/01/31/the-high-cost-of-physician-burnout-in-healthcare-organizations
  3. “Stress and burnout among surgeons: Understanding and managing the syndrome and avoiding the adverse consequences,” JAMA Surgery. (2009). https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/fullarticle/404847
  4. “The Business Case for Investing in Physician Well Being,” JAMA Internal Medicine, September 25, 2017. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2653912?redirect=true
  5. “The Business of Burnout: Boosting Physician Resilience Pays,” Medscape Medical News, September 26, 2017 https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/88621

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