The COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh heavily on our nation’s health care system, making it more important than ever to help physicians and their teams stay healthy — both mentally and physically — so they can continue caring for patients. The AAFP Foundation is pleased to enter the second year of its collaboration with the United Health Foundation (UHF), the philanthropic foundation of United Health Group, to improve physician well-being and reduce burnout.
Ongoing support from the United Health Foundation will allow the AAFP to continue offering a physician well-being certificate program free of charge to its members. It also will allow for further exploration into the causes of physician burnout and ways to combat it, including strategies and tactics that can be implemented at the practice level to help physicians and their teams become more efficient and better manage change. Recruitment for the second cohort of Leading Physician Well-being scholars is under way. The AAFP is currently accepting applications, with additional information available on the website.
In 2020, the AAFP Foundation was awarded a $3 million, three-year grant from UHF to help the American Academy of Family Physicians identify causes of physician burnout and develop solutions to improve physician well-being. Through its Leading Physician Well-being Certificate Program (LPW), physicians grow their knowledge and skills in three foundational areas: physician well-being, leadership development and performance improvement.
“The need for physician leadership around well-being issues has never been more important, and we are eager to build on the success of the 2021 inaugural class and prepare the next group of family physicians to transform their organizations in ways that can improve clinician well-being,” said Jason Marker, MD, MPA, program chair and lead faculty of the Leading Physician Well-being Certificate Program. “Physicians who complete the certificate program should expect that they can enhance the quality of care that their local teams can provide to their patients, improve the morale of the care team, and help the communities they work in to stay focused on health-enhancing activities."
Family physicians and their teams play a critical role in the health care system. They provide direct patient care and counsel patients on the appropriate use of specialists and advanced treatment options. Yet, more than half of family physicians report markers of poor well-being, and burnout can negatively affect the quality of patient care, according to AAFP research. And more than 19 percent of Americans live in an area with a shortage of primary care providers, with the shortfall projected to reach between 20,000 and 55,000 over the next decade.
An extension of the Academy’s groundbreaking Physician Health First (PHF) initiative, LPW is finishing up its first-ever cohort of 100 physicians from 2021 and will start its second cohort in 2022. Over the course of the collaboration, 200 family physicians will be trained to lead change for improved clinician well-being in their practices, including the development of a change management plan for the participant’s organization. Upon completion, the AAFP will support physician participants as they create and implement an applied project that creates change at the organizational level. Examples of these projects include improving clinician well-being and enhancing team-based care.
“The shortage of primary care health care providers has been a concern for years, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue by creating longer hours, additional stress and higher levels of burnout,” said Dr. Richard Migliori, chief medical officer of UnitedHealth Group. “The grant partnership and this program are extremely well-timed. We hope the program helps participants develop relevant programs and efficiencies that make a positive difference in the work and lives of health care providers.”