While previous studies have shown an association between burnout among healthcare professionals and quality of patient care, new research suggests those studies may exaggerate the magnitude of the effect.
In a new systematic review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers carried out a comprehensive evaluation for reporting biases in the literature on healthcare provider burnout, encompassing more than 140 published study populations over 25 years incorporating 241,553 healthcare professionals.
Quality-of-care measures were grouped into five categories: best practices, communication, medical errors, patient outcomes, and quality and safety.
While most of the research suggested a relationship between burnout and impaired quality of care, the authors reported that the results were highly heterogeneous. Of 114 unique burnout-quality combinations, 58 indicated burnout related to poor-quality care, six indicated burnout related to high-quality care, and 50 showed no significant effect. The authors noted that excess significance was also apparent.
“Whether curtailing burnout improves quality of care, or whether improving quality of care reduces burnout, is not yet known, and adequately powered and designed randomised trials will be indispensable in answering these questions,” the authors concluded.