September 21, 2015

ICD-10: What Steps Should Be Taken to Avoid Stress Burnout by Individuals and Managers?


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is transcription of a segment on Talk Ten Tuesdays by H. Steven Moffic, MD, speaking on the subject of workplace stress and burnout, occasioned by the impending conversation from ICD-9 to ICD-10. Dr. Moffic is nationally renowned and award-winning author, and has blogs published by Behavioral Healthcare and Psychiatric Times.


Chuck, physicians often say that the best treatment for illness is prevention. That same philosophy would hold true for stress and burnout.

Just keep in mind that we are talking about undue stress here, not stress in general. Moderate stress, in terms of realistic expectations, is generally good for you; it stimulates growth, resilience, and achievement. Too much, whether actual or imagined, though, leads to emotional burnout.

The front-page article yesterday in the New York Times focused on “doctor anxiety” about ICD-10. Though coders are a hot commodity now, anxious doctors may in turn increase their stress. Clark (Clark Anthony, Talk Ten Tuesdays announcer), in your opening announcement to the show, you made me more anxious just hearing how many days, hours, and seconds are left (before the compliance date of ICD-10)!

What may help is to create a healthy and well workplace. One way to achieve that is wellness programs. For the organization, that means, at the minimum, setting aside time to recoup from stress with adequate daily breaks, best done outdoors and in nature, perhaps now with a Starbucks seasonal pumpkin spice latte – mmm - in hand! Employees have to complement that with their own personal wellness program. That includes trying to find support and feedback in a good friend, a clergy (member) if religious, an intimate other, a trusted mentor or colleague, and (by) having hobbies.

Chuck, you and I enjoy jazz and blues music. Remember some of the lyrics to the song Stormy Monday Blues?

They call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday’s just as bad
Wednesday’s worse and Thursday’s all so sad
The eagle flies on Friday and Saturday I go out to play
Sunday I go to church and kneel down and pray.

Sounds like burnout to me.

What, then, would that healthy and well workplace look like?

Monday: There is a sense of zest and a buzz.

Tuesday: Employees feel valued, do meaningful work, and are treated with dignity.

Wednesday: They are not given too much to do or learn in too little time.

Thursday: The organization is friendly, inclusive, and supportive.

Friday: Decision-making is fair, transparent, and even-handed.

Saturday: Everyone has a health and wellness plan to follow.

Sunday: Be as realistically prepared as possible for changes, like ICD-10.

Now, most everyday, in one way or another, the manager can gauge – and change - employee engagement and satisfaction. There are even emerging smartphone apps that make monitoring this easier. Although studies indicate that a minority of workers in the U.S. feel engaged emotionally (at work), we know that better-engaged workers increase productivity, profit, retention, and safety. Wellness works!

Be well, Chuck, and everyone. Back to you!

Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of ICD10monitor and is the executive producer and program host of Talk Ten Tuesdays.

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