About the Program

Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., directs the Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-Being. He leads research studying approaches to improving physician well-being across the career span.

The Mayo Clinic Program on Physician Well-Being was established to conduct and promote innovative research focused on physician well-being. Research led by the team has established that physician burnout threatens the quality of patient care, patient satisfaction, access to care, and physicians' lives.

For patients to receive excellent care from compassionate, collaborative, and competent physicians, strategies are needed to reduce burnout and mitigate it when it does occur. To ensure the health of patients, physicians, and the organization, a vigorous discovery science program is necessary to facilitate physician well-being through research, education, and development of individual and organizational approaches to optimize physician satisfaction and performance.

Initially, four platforms of excellence are focusing scientific activities on physician well-being spanning the career cycle. The program establishes new collaborations and teams of investigators to maximize results, disseminate findings, and promote translation into practice.

The Mayo Clinic Program on Physician Well-Being research activities are essential to promoting the health of the population and organization. The body of knowledge generated is translated into meaningful and substantive changes within the organization and for our profession.

The program's leadership team and faculty and staff work together to advance discovery and transform practice to improve the work lives of physicians and in turn improve the care they provide to patients worldwide.

Why establish a program on physician well-being at Mayo Clinic?

The creation of the Program on Physician Well-Being emphasizes the important role physicians have in the Mayo Clinic mission.

The daily work of physicians is critical to patient outcomes and cost of care. Our health care system is rapidly changing and as we move toward aspirational goals of better care, improved health, and lower cost we need to ensure that physicians are engaged.

The cost of physician burnout adds more than $3.4 billion annually to the U.S. health care system, and within the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic alone it is estimated to cost at least $1.5 to $2.5 million a year in decreased productivity.

The program facilitates evidence-based approaches to inform departmental and institutional well-being initiatives.

What types of research does the program focus on?

Our research focuses on understanding the prevalence, causes, and consequences of physician burnout across the career span, and on developing scalable, affordable, and evidence-based approaches to inform individual and institutional well-being initiatives.

Although the group conducts research on medical students, residents, and medical providers across a variety of disciplines, its focus is on studying well-being among physicians. In addition, we prospectively and longitudinally measure different dimensions of well-being, professional satisfaction, and burnout among physicians to identify changes and trends within Mayo Clinic.

Data are also used to evaluate how changes in organizational structure impact the satisfaction and well-being of physicians.

How does the program translate new knowledge into changes for physicians?

One of our primary goals is to develop evidence-based approaches to inform departmental and institutional well-being initiatives.

We have developed new metrics, established national benchmarks, implemented practice analytics focused on physician well-being, and conducted intervention studies and randomized trials that have resulted in implementation of several organizational strategies aimed at improving physician well-being.

These strategies include having physician well-being as a routine institutional performance metric with targeted interventions, monitoring of the physician leadership score with tailored coaching to those in need, cultivating community through COMPASS groups (also known as Physician Engagement Groups), incorporating discussions of career fit into annual reviews, and providing a validated self-calibration tool with links to resources to promote self-care.