Measuring clinician distress and its relationship with healthcare quality
Brady, Keri J. Simmons
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Research elucidating high rates of burnout, depression, and suicide among US clinicians has caused national concern for the sustainability of our healthcare workforce and the quality of patient care. In response, US healthcare organizations are using measures of clinician burnout in new contexts beyond their traditional use in research. Outcome measures of clinician burnout are being used to evaluate health system performance, identify demographic disparities, and educate individual clinicians regarding their own outcomes. Yet, critical gaps in the literature exist regarding the measurement properties of burnout assessments in these contexts and the relationship between clinician distress and healthcare quality. This dissertation contains three studies on measuring clinician distress and its relationship with healthcare quality. Studies 1 and 2 aim to advance what is known regarding the interpretability, reliability, and validity of a commonly used clinician burnout assessment, the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey for Medical Personnel (MBI-HSS). In Study 1, we aimed to improve the interpretation of the MBI-HSS by using item response theory to describe the burnout symptoms and precision associated with MBI-HSS scores in US physicians. We produced response profiles that allow health policy makers and healthcare leaders to relate actionable, qualitative meaning regarding individuals’ and groups’ burnout symptom burden to the MBI-HSS’s quantitative subscale scores. In Study 2, we examined whether demographic disparities in US physician burnout are explained by differences in the MBI-HSS’s functioning across physician age, gender, and specialty groups. Our findings revealed that differences in the MBI-HSS’s functioning across age, gender, and specialty groups did not account for observed disparities, supporting the use of the MBI-HSS as a valid tool for identifying demographic disparities in physician burnout. In Study 3, we examined the association of clinician depression, anxiety, and burnout with the inappropriate use of antibiotic prescriptions for acute respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in a retrospective cohort study of outpatient visits at Boston Medical Center. We found a significant positive association between clinician depression, anxiety, and burnout and inappropriate prescribing for acute RTIs, which depended on the visit location and diagnosis group. Our findings suggest that clinician depression, anxiety, and burnout may play an important role in the quality of routine outpatient care. As federal agencies and healthcare organizations seek to address clinician distress on local and national levels, our findings offer important implications for future assessment and intervention.