Physician comparison can decrease job satisfaction

There’s nuance to how doctors should be evaluated to limit turnover.
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· less than 3 min read

As physician burnout reaches “distressing levels,” one common evaluation method—and how leaders approach it—might be exacerbating the problem.

Peer-to-peer comparisons, which occur when physicians are measured against each other on how well they motivated patients to seek preventative care, for example, can actually “decrease job satisfaction and increase burnout,” according to UCLA researchers who conducted a five-month field experiment on UCLA Health staff.

While the comparisons didn’t have a significant effect on job performance, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it did appear to worsen the problem of burnout.

One reason for the “significant negative effect on physician well-being” could be that doctors equated peer comparison with reduced leadership support, said Jana Gallus, co-author of the study and associate professor of strategy and behavioral decision making at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Instead of shelving physician comparisons altogether, researchers suggested managers explain the purpose of these evaluations. In an attempt to figure out why these negative effects were happening, UCLA Health leaders were trained to inform physicians that the evaluations were done as a system-wide effort to benefit patients, Gallus said. Based on the study’s findings, adjusting the leadership approach in this way offsets the negative effects of peer comparisons on physician well-being, she said.

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