Build vs. Buy: What Does Creating a Physician Well Being Support Program Cost and Does the ROI Make Sense?

Posted on February 5, 2020 by Leonard Pesheck, MBA

ROI imagePhysician well being has become increasingly important (dare I say paramount) to healthcare organizations and leaders. Physician stress and burnout have been reported to cost between $4.6B-$17B a year for the healthcare industry, or an average of about $7,600 per physician, per year. To help you see how the numbers add up two readily available calculators include one by the AMA and one from VITAL WorkLife. You are probably very aware of the high cost of burnout and have developed your own internal support program, Wellness or Well Being Committee, etc. Or, perhaps you are considering your options for what you can do to support physician well being in your organization.

There are a variety of strategies organizations can do to support their medical staff and leadership, address cultural issues or improve business processes, such as:

  • Hire a Chief Wellness Officer who is charged with physician well being, or assign the role to an existing physician as a part-time function
  • Create a Wellness/Well Being Committee
  • Identify internal coaches and counselors who can designate time to support physicians & providers or provide leadership coaching

While there are definite benefits to developing your own internal programs, there are also some trade-offs you should be aware of. Below are some questions to ask yourself before your organization embarks on this critical endeavor:

  • How much time will you set aside for your program overall and for each individual?
  • What is the cost of those resources in terms of salary and total loaded costs?
  • What is the opportunity cost (lost productivity/revenue) of using your internal staff for this program?
  • Will those assigned to support be allowed to reduce their productivity requirements?
  • Can your program be completely confidential and discreet, so your physicians actually engage with resources?
  • Will you be able to put forth the resources to successfully gain participation from your clinicians?

There are many potential cost scenarios you might use, and I’d suggest your team do a thorough cost benefit analysis before undertaking.

An Example Business Case Might Be:

Revenue Lost/Cost

The following is a conservative example of the costs you need to consider when implementing an internal support program for your physicians & providers:

  • Chief Wellness Officer (who is also a physician): 20% of their time with projected revenue brought in by the physician at $2.37 million/year (20% is $475k).
  • Well Being Committee of Four Physicians: 2 hours per month, each, and who each deliver $2.37 million/year in revenue ($178k).
  • Peer or Leadership Coach (who is also a physician): 4 hours per month and who delivers $2.37 million in revenue/year ($89k).
  • Internal Counselor: 2 hours per month who charges $150/hour for the organization ($3.6k for the year).

Reviewing our business case example, your total lost revenue cost could easily add up to $745,000/year. Of course, your numbers will vary based on organization and we encourage to do your own calculations. However, launching an internal program has other costs beyond those mentioned above. I’d encourage you to check with your HR, IT and Communications teams for the budget and resources needed to support an internal program in order to achieve the needed engagement for a successful well being program.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the costs, an internal program may increase stress of those assigned to support the program while keeping up their normal job responsibilities and productivity requirements. You should consider if your organization has internal competencies and experience to successfully create and manage your internal program. I have talked to many people who are responsible for internal programs about their concerns. I’ve heard “I’m it” and “There are just a couple of us and we’re extremely part-time.” One recent example was of an internal group who themselves feel stressed and guilty for not being able to support everyone who needs it or have asked.

Summary

Many organizations don’t look at the total cost of supporting physician well being internally, and often find out during the process how quickly it can add up and impact their operations. Before you start off on your own, we encourage you to list out all the costs you can think of (resources, time, salary, lost revenue, etc.). Look at your business case and decide if this is something you really want to do internally, or if external support is needed to supplement your efforts.

We Can Help

The good news is there are resource out there to help you navigate the process. Our proactive Physician Well Being Resources solution was designed to complement your internal resources and help you reach your goals.

Set up a 30-minute consultation with a representative to learn more about how our solutions support physician well being. 

 

Sources: 

Physician burnout costs industry $4.6B annually. https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/physician-burnout-costs-industry-46b-annually/555631/

Healthcare Dive Physician burnout costs up to $17B a year, task force says

Average net revenue generated by a physician annually is estimated to be $2,387,7275 https://www.merritthawkins.com/uploadedFiles/MerrittHawkins_RevenueSurvey_2019.pdf

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