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Physicians and work-life balance: researchers studying effectiveness of interventions

Work-life balance is an important issue for all professionals, including physicians. The demands of work can have a significant effect not only on a physician’s personal life, but also a physician’s ability to fulfill work obligations and meet the needs of patients.

There is little doubt that failure to properly balance work and life can take a toll on professional commitments and obligations, but researchers are still determining how to best address the issue among physicians. Some strategies focus on what physicians do outside of work, while others focus on work itself. According to a recent study, interventions aimed at helping physicians improve work-life balance are not necessarily effective at reducing medical errors. 

The study specifically looked at a set of intervention strategies designed to improve communications between providers, improve workflow, and address chronic disease management. The study found that a group of physicians utilizing such strategies did not experience significant benefits in terms of reducing errors over a group that did not.

Interestingly, despite the outcome of the study, its authors did mention that work-life intervention strategies can result in “meaningful changes in clinical outcomes,” but these improvements are not necessarily equivalent to error reduction and better care for patients. This research, of course, is ongoing, so it is possible that certain work-life interventions may one day be found which do reduce error rates and improve patient care.

Work-life balance can potentially come into play in physician disciplinary proceedings, both with respect to the cause of the proceedings and with actions taken by the Medical Practice Board. We’ll continue looking at this issue in our next post. 

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