Blog Post

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The Sadness of Physician Burnout

HIPnation, July 21, 2018

Physician burnout is a hot topic in the world of medicine. As if this statement is not sad enough, it gets worse. Burnout is particularly prevalent in family medicine.

Physician Burnout

Based on Medscape’s 2018 National Physician Burnout and Depression Survey, almost half (47%) of physicians delivering primary care suffer from burnout. The repercussions? Physician burnout has been linked to an increase in medical errors, higher mortality rates in hospitalized patients, increased physician turnover, and reductions in the time physicians spend providing clinical care. Think about it: how well can a physician provide care when they are burned out? And for physicians personally, burnout leads to depression, fatigue, cynicism, and a lack of connectedness.

The maddening part — few if any of the issues that lead to burnout relate to the actual practice of medicine. Most physicians would tell you that they entered medicine as a calling, one that led them to willingly toil through long hours, late nights, intense exams and the stress of caring for others.

Medicine is Overtaken

However, medicine has become overtaken by the healthcare industry. Physicians and patients have become cogs in the wheel. Medicine is now about the physician having to see more patients while spending less time engaging with them. It’s about population health management, value-based purchasing, and entering data into computerized health records that were developed to meet meaningless insurance requirements and valueless government regulations. Healthcare has become less and less about caring for people.

The studies confirm this — an AMA and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Care System study found that only 27% of a physician’s time is spent on direct clinical care. Another study found that for every hour of face time with patients, physicians spend nearly two hours on their EHR and clerical desk work. This is not medicine.

But fear not — this issue of burnout is being addressed. A sampling of some current recommendations for physicians:

  • Create a “reset room” where you can take a moment to quiet yourself in the midst of the chaotic day.
  • Meditate, get more exercise or adopt cognitive-behavioral strategies to improve resiliency.
  • Develop organization strategies to mitigate systemic and environmental issues that cause burnout.

The AMA has come up with a STEPS Forward™ program that offers much of the same advice.

Such approaches would be laughable if the problem of burnout and its impact on our physicians and patients was not so severe. The truth: no approach to treating physician burnout will be effective until we restore the proper physician-patient relationship. How do we achieve this? Simple — remove the industry of healthcare from the offices of physicians.

How HIPnation Can Help

It is for this reason we created HIPnation. We remove much of that industry and free our physicians to focus on providing great care to those who entrust us with their health. In doing so, the joy of medicine that arises from fulfilling that calling to be a doctor comes to fruition. We look forward to being part of the revolution that changes the stories of our physicians (and thus our patients) and returns joy to medicine.