• Physician Wellness and Its Impact on Patient Safety

    Brad H Feldman, MD, AAO Secretary for Member Services detailed the impact of physician wellness on patient safety and explained that wellness has physical, mental, and social aspects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines well-being as judging life positively and feeling good.

    On the flip side is burnout, described as depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, loss of enthusiasm, and feelings of being overloaded with stress. The Medscape Lifestyle 2017 Study reported that 42% to 59% of physicians, depending on specialty, and 43% of ophthalmologists suffer from at least one symptom of burnout in the United States.

    Burnout leads to decreased productivity and depression. Studies indicate that the greater the level of burnout, the higher the incidence of medical error. Dr. Feldman noted that 39% of physicians report depression at some point in their career.

    Strategies to address physician wellness involve individual focus and structural focus. Individual focus may include attending to our own well-being by visiting our physician, seeking health care and mental health services, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and creating a family and peer group network for support.

    Examples of structural focused strategies include decreasing duty hours for residents, formulating regulations to make maintenance of certification less burdensome, and freeing up more physician time to concentrate on direct patient care.