Physician Burnout: Perspectives, Stories, and Solutions

Percentage of healthcare executives who say physician burnout is a top concern

Source: The Doctors Company Executive
Advisory Board

Growing administrative demands and distractions in our complex healthcare system conflict with how physicians want to provide care—contributing to alarming rates of physician burnout and potentially leading to more adverse events and compromising patient safety. In our recent Future of Healthcare Survey of over 3,400 physicians nationwide, 7 out of 10 doctors were unwilling to recommend healthcare as a profession to their children or other family members.

We are committed to helping reverse the trends associated with physician burnout by sharing information and tools that address some of the known causes.

Remembering Why You Became a Physician

A plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Texas describes his Wall—a place in his office where he keeps notes and cards from patients. It’s a place where he can go to remember, during difficult times, all he has been able to achieve and accomplish over the years.

Reducing Burnout with Teamwork

A recent study by the National Academy of Medicine found that team-based healthcare is linked to improved physician well-being, which is foundational to effective and efficient healthcare. Our Team-Building INSIGHT Service helps practices build highly effective teams through customized training.

Distracting Devices and Burnout

Distraction by digital devices can be both a symptom of and a contributor to healthcare provider stress and burnout. As a symptom of burnout, digital distraction is a way to escape a stressful environment. As a contributor to burnout, digital distraction impedes human interaction because of the sheer volume of data demanding our attention.

Exploring Solutions to Physician Burnout

Reducing physician burnout requires understanding the multiple root causes and action from individual physicians, institutional clinic leadership, electronic health record software designers, and healthcare regulators. Explore the factors behind the growing physician burnout crisis and what can be done to address them.

Scribes and EHR Documentation

Hans Haydon, MD, an internal medicine physician, was distressed that time-consuming electronic health record documentation was driving up his work hours and stress.

With the use of a medical scribe, Dr. Haydon was able to restore productivity, quality interactions with patients, and work-life balance.

Overcoming the Stress of Malpractice Litigation

A typical doctor spends nearly 11 percent of a 40-year career with open malpractice claims, with many claims taking years to resolve. Facing a malpractice lawsuit is one of the most trying experiences a physician can encounter—the fear of lawsuits and the stress of resolving a claim is a significant contributor to physician burnout.

Managing Challenging Patient Relationships

Learn best practices to preserve a constructive physician-patient relationship when patients behave in difficult or unreasonable ways, including violent patients, no-show patients, and patients who don’t follow treatment plans. This guide also covers how to safely terminate a patient relationship.

You are not alone

If you need help, support is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call: (800) 273-8255

Helpful Resources

“Breaking Bread” to Combat Burnout
Clinicians who gather for a meal can quickly move “from the complaints of the present to the possibilities of collective action.” This article demonstrates how investing in community and connectedness can help address the symptoms of workplace burnout.

Case Study: Reducing Surgeon Burnout
Read how Texas Tech redesigned their traditional trauma and emergency general surgery call to create a more reasonable, surgeon-and-patient-friendly model.

Be the Architect of Change
The CEO of Oregon Medical Group explains how she reduced physician burnout in the practice by expanding physician leadership and creating a shared vision. [from Medical Matters, a publication of Lane County Medical Society]

Fixing the EHR to Combat Physician Burnout
The Doctors Company Board member Robert Wachter, MD, explains how the EHR contributes to burnout

National Academy of Medicine Clinician Well-Being Knowledge Hub
Articles, research, and studies on burnout

American Medical Association STEPSForward Physician Burnout Module
CME on preventing burnout, including examples of successful burnout programs

Institute for Healthcare Improvement Framework for Improving Joy in Work
A guide for healthcare leaders to improve joy at work in their organization

Physician Litigation Stress Resource Center
Resources and articles on handling the malpractice litigation process

Our Commitment

The Doctors Company has always been guided by our mission: to advance, protect, and reward the practice of good medicine.

As healthcare delivery continues to undergo rapid change, those who practice medicine have never been under greater pressure. Contradictory regulations, a rapidly-changing payment system, expanding reporting mandates, and ever-present cyber threats all combine to jeopardize the doctor-patient relationship.

That’s why we are dedicated to helping doctors and practices anticipate issues ahead and to being a strong, proactive partner for those delivering care.

We recognize how the growing administrative demands and distractions rooted in our complex healthcare system conflict with how physicians and others want to provide care. This conflict contributes to alarming rates of clinician stress and burnout—potentially leading to more medical errors and the potential for patient harm.

We are committed to reversing the trends associated with clinician stress by sharing information and tools that address some of the known causes of stress and burnout. This includes publishing data-driven claims studies to provide insight into allegations and contributing factors underlying lawsuits and, most importantly, the strategies that can prevent harm to patients and mitigate risks of litigation. We also recognize that physicians may be sued or have a report filed with their medical board. Accordingly, we provide education to help our members understand the legal process and cope with the stress that lawsuits impose on practices, personal lives, and close relationships.

Digital health innovation, industry consolidation, new technology, and regulation are some of the factors that change the way physicians and practice managers deliver care. The Doctors Company will continue to work with our members, advisory groups, and other experts to develop resources to help members manage these changes—by building healthier work environments with highly functional clinical teams, effective processes, and strong communication. Our efforts will continue to support physicians, nurses, and other clinicians so they can provide care that aligns with their professional ethic and caregiving mission.

We believe we should serve the medical profession by partnering with those who provide care—so that doctors can focus on making decisions based on the best outcomes for patients, rather than on threats of litigation, invasive regulation, or financial loss. An unwavering commitment to clinician well-being is essential to optimizing quality of care and patient safety.

The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.


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