We’re taking a break from the subject of Contentment for some shock and awe statistics.
The other day I confessed to my wife that I had lost $1,000 playing poker during my day off. She was shocked. Then I revealed that it wasn’t real money, and I was only playing a computer game. But imagine if it had been real? And imagine if it wasn’t $1,000 or $1 million, but that I had lost $1 billion!
People often joke and say it’s not so much that we have healthcare but rather money-care. I think that’s an unfair characterization, but I understand its origins. Our healthcare system revolves a great deal around money in terms of insurance, reimbursement, and the ever-present government involvement with Medicare and Medicaid. But how does burnout affect our wallet?
One of the characteristics of burnout is depersonalization – decreased personal connection with people or patients. There are varying degrees of depersonalization, ranging from feeling detached from our environment to severe chronic cases where life doesn’t even seem real, and we exist in a dream-like state. It can occur because of stress, sleep deprivation, and trauma. On a mild level, it’s that feeling you have when you’re severely jet-lagged. You’ve flown across time zones, and you’re so tired that you feel disconnected from your feelings and emotions. This leads to medical errors.
The Cost of Medical Errors
When caregivers burn out, they often disconnect with their patients. Not connecting with patients can lead to many things, including medical errors. According to the Journal of Health care Finance, researchers estimate that the total economic impact of medical errors cost the US healthcare system is between…
$735-$980 billion annually.
Let’s make sure we grasp how significant that number is.
Crazy Statistic #1
A thousand seconds is about 17 minutes. A million seconds is 11.5 days. But
a billion seconds is 31.7 years.
So if the healthcare industry made one thousand dollars in revenue every second, it would take over four months to pay off the debt that medical errors cause – in only one of those years.
How would you like to work 12 months every year and only get paid for 8 of them? Wait, that’s the average American when it comes to taxes. In 2019, tax freedom day was April 16th – the day we finally worked for ourselves and stopped paying down our government’s debt. (Assuming $980 billion as a benchmark).
Crazy Statistic #2
Of course, the $900 + billion number takes into account the entire US healthcare system. If you consider that there are about 6,146 hospitals in the US, that amounts to approximately $159,453,302.96 per hospital. Can you imagine walking into your boss’s office and saying, we’re losing over $159 million because of mistakes? Their first response may be to suggest you receive a random drug screening.
The average hospital loses $159 million because of medical errors.
My math may be off, but you get the point. Working as a burned-out caregiver can cost the healthcare industry a lot of money. Let’s not forget that many of those dollars represent patients’ health, quality of living, and even their lives. It’s easy to disassociate from the problem when you only look at numbers on a spreadsheet. And there’s also a tendency to look at these numbers and dismiss them because they can be too overwhelming. After a certain point, it almost becomes incomprehensible. Just look at our national debt.
Crazy Statistic #3
Remember, a thousand seconds is about 17 minutes. A million seconds is 11.5 days. A billion seconds is 31.5 years, but a trillion seconds is almost 32,000 years. And as of today, our nation is closing in on $28 trillion in debt. That means that
if the government paid $1 every second to decrease the debt, it would take 896,000 years to pay it off.
And that’s if we never incurred any more debt! Can you wrap your head around that?
These statistics grab your attention. Our healthcare system can’t afford to allow burnout to continue. If you think we can, give me the $159 million that your hospital is losing because of burnout. With $159 million, I don’t think I would burnout ever again. I realize money isn’t the cure for life’s problems, but it would be fun to test that theory. If anyone is researching the effects that millions of dollars has on burnout, give me a call. I want to participate.
We’re all human, and we will make mistakes. Nothing is full proof. But other industries have implemented safeguards. Flight crews can only work so many hours, including the pilots and attendants. And let’s not forget that it was the air traffic controllers who helped us understand the concept of burnout in the first place. Not that I’m advocating for more government oversight. But just looking at burnout from a financial perspective shows that it’s in everyone’s best interest to get to the problem, the multi-billion-dollar burnout problem.