BACKGROUND: Work conditions in primary care are associated with physician burnout and lower quality of care. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to assess if improvements in work conditions improve clinician stress and burnout. SUBJECTS: Primary care clinicians at 34 clinics in the upper Midwest and New York City participated in the study. STUDY DESIGN: This was a cluster randomized controlled trial. MEASURES: Work conditions, such as time pressure, workplace chaos, and work control, as well as clinician outcomes, were measured at baseline and at 12–18 months. A brief worklife and work conditions summary measure was provided to staff and clinicians at intervention sites. INTERVENTIONS: Diverse interventions were grouped into three categories: 1) improved communication; 2) changes in workflow, and 3) targeted quality improvement (QI) projects. ANALYSIS: Multilevel regressions assessed impact of worklife data and interventions on clinician outcomes. A multilevel analysis then looked at clinicians whose outcome scores improved and determined types of interventions associated with improvement. RESULTS: Of 166 clinicians, 135 (81.3 %) completed the study. While there was no group treatment effect of baseline data on clinician outcomes, more intervention clinicians showed improvements in burnout (21.8 % vs 7.1 % less burned out, p = 0.01) and satisfaction (23.1 % vs 10.0 % more satisfied, p = 0.04). Burnout was more likely to improve with workflow interventions [Odds Ratio (OR) of improvement in burnout 5.9, p = 0.02], and with targeted QI projects than in controls (OR 4.8, p = 0.02). Interventions in communication or workflow led to greater improvements in clinician satisfaction (OR 3.1, p = 0.04), and showed a trend toward greater improvement in intention to leave (OR 4.2, p = 0.06). LIMITATIONS: We used heterogeneous intervention types, and were uncertain how well interventions were instituted. CONCLUSIONS: Organizations may be able to improve burnout, dissatisfaction and retention by addressing communication and workflow, and initiating QI projects targeting clinician concerns.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The project was supported by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Grant # 5R18-HS018160-03.
© 2015, Society of General Internal Medicine.
- primary care
- quality improvement
- work conditions