Background Physician burnout has reached epidemic levels, as documented in national studies of both physicians in training and practising physicians. The consequences are negative effects on patient care, professionalism, physicians’ own care and safety, and the viability of health-care systems. A more complete understanding than at present of the quality and outcomes of the literature on approaches to prevent and reduce burnout is necessary. Methods In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science, and the Education Resources Information Center from inception to Jan 15, 2016, for studies of interventions to prevent and reduce physician burnout, including single-arm pre-post comparison studies. We required studies to provide physician-specific burnout data using burnout measures with validity support from commonly accepted sources of evidence. We excluded studies of medical students and non-physician health-care providers. We considered potential eligibility of the abstracts and extracted data from eligible studies using a standardised form. Outcomes were changes in overall burnout, emotional exhaustion score (and high emotional exhaustion), and depersonalisation score (and high depersonalisation). We used random-effects models to calculate pooled mean difference estimates for changes in each outcome. Findings We identified 2617 articles, of which 15 randomised trials including 716 physicians and 37 cohort studies including 2914 physicians met inclusion criteria. Overall burnout decreased from 54% to 44% (difference 10% [95% CI 5–14]; p<0·0001; I2=15%; 14 studies), emotional exhaustion score decreased from 23·82 points to 21·17 points (2·65 points [1·67–3·64]; p<0·0001; I2=82%; 40 studies), and depersonalisation score decreased from 9·05 to 8·41 (0·64 points [0·15–1·14]; p=0·01; I2=58%; 36 studies). High emotional exhaustion decreased from 38% to 24% (14% [11–18]; p<0·0001; I2=0%; 21 studies) and high depersonalisation decreased from 38% to 34% (4% [0–8]; p=0·04; I2=0%; 16 studies). Interpretation The literature indicates that both individual-focused and structural or organisational strategies can result in clinically meaningful reductions in burnout among physicians. Further research is needed to establish which interventions are most effective in specific populations, as well as how individual and organisational solutions might be combined to deliver even greater improvements in physician wellbeing than those achieved with individual solutions. Funding Arnold P Gold Foundation Research Institute.
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