Physician burnout: There's an app for that

Physicians just got another tool in the battle against burnout.

Headspace, an online healthcare company specializing in meditation, has announced a partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) that will allow its members free access to the company’s meditation and mindfulness app.

As a result of the partnership, headspace will be available to AMA’s member physicians, medical students and residents for free to help counter physician burnout.

Research has shown mindfulness meditation can positively impact many of the factors related to burnout, including stress and depression. Headspace says its research showed a reduction in burnout after only four sessions using the app among healthcare professionals and a reduction in stress for medical professionals after 30 days.

The partnership comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) this week updated its definition of “burnout” calling it a “syndrome” and specifically tying it to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” WHO brought new attention to the problem of burnout as it announced it is updating the definition in the new version of the International Classification of Diseases or ICD-11 that will go into effect in January 2022.

A new study also put a price tag on the problem of physician burnout. Burnout costs the U.S. healthcare industry an estimated $4.6 billion a year because of doctor turnover and reduced clinical hours, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.

A survey that included AMA researchers found 43.9% of doctors in the U.S. exhibited at least one symptom of burnout.

The new benefit via Headspace will give AMA members access to tools to reduce stress and burnout and increase compassion.

The mindfulness and meditation app provider will also provide content for the AMA’s channels, so its members can learn ways to incorporate the skills of meditation and mindfulness into their daily lives.

RELATED: Burnout, time spent on EHRs top challenges for independent practice leaders

“This collaboration with the AMA brings us one step closer to realizing Headspace’s vision of making meditation and mindfulness mainstream, especially in the medical field, by continuing to solidify Headspace’s commitment to improving health and happiness,” said Megan Jones Bell, Ph.D., chief science officer at Headspace.

The AMA said it hopes the partnership will give physicians a new opportunity to increase health and happiness through mindfulness training. “The AMA recognizes the tremendous importance of helping physicians reduce stress and burnout and improve their mental well-being because we want to make physician burnout a thing of the past,” said Todd Unger, the AMA’s chief experience officer and senior vice president of physician engagement.

Where you can find help

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress, or for those who are helping a person in crisis.
  • For online chat, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a confidential chat window with counselors available 24/7.