Practice efficiency

Fixing Physician Burnout

April 4, 2017
5 min read
Last updated on
Fixing Physician Burnout
Table of contents

Physician burnout: we know it's a problem. More than half of physicians would not recommend the career to a family member or child. Yikes. Why would a professional elite cohort suggest that the career path (not to mention the very impactful value of practicing medicine) not be an ideal lifestyle for their loved ones? Would you recommend a medical career to your family? Why?

Fatigue, Stress, Long Hours, Administrative Headaches

The amount of time, effort and responsibility are enough to weigh even the brightest minds down. Dr. Pamela Web discusses the reality that these challenges and stressors first start with the issues in the profession itself. In order for doctors to heal their patients they must heal their profession first. Dr. Web gives a poignant Ted Talk addressing one of the darker aspects of practicing medicine in: Why Doctors Kill Themselves.

Nobody talks about the estimated at least 400 U.S. doctors kill themselves every year. Many are struggling with depression, anxiety, or addiction. Maybe we should be addressing the very real stressors that are contributing to these issues.


A much more mild and prevalent phenomenon in medical practices is the experience of physician burnout. Even 'burnout' seems like a sugar-coated name for a real condition that can lead to more serious complications in work and life. The Japanese have the term 'Karลshi' that literally translates to overwork death; describing the condition in which individuals succumb to illness due to stressors in the workplace.

But how do we define 'Karลshi' for the medical field? A more pertinent question, even, would be how do we cure it?

As medical doctors, diagnosing, analyzing and solving others' problems comes as second nature (although, a second nature skill developed through hard work, long nights and incredible dedication). To diagnose this issue, we must look at the factors that are influencing this epidemic among professional doctors.

More on the survey:

  • Of those polled, 74 percent of primary care physicians and ER physicians said their facility or practice is failing to take effective steps to address and prevent burnout.
  • Fifty-seven percent of PCPs and ER physicians reported personally experiencing burnout.
  • While they did not personally experience burnout, 36 percent said they knew someone who had.
  • Thirty-seven percent said their work frustrated them a few times each week, or even daily.
  • Respondents cited time pressures as the leading cause of physician burnout.

According to Dr. Dianne Shannon for KevinMD, โ€œIndividual solutions to burnout, such as stress reduction techniques, resilience training, and mindfulness practice, are effective but not sufficient for dealing with the widespread problem among physicians.โ€ We need to be implementing a systematic change to end the cycle of burnout.

Instead of analyzing personal symptoms, start by analyzing occupational pressures.

Are you feeling the following pressures relating to:

  • Work pace or level of chaos
  • Time pressure
  • Lack of control over the practice environment
  • Discordance between the physicianโ€™s values and those of administrators

In 2009 Mark Linzer, MD, and his team at University of Wisconsin, identified these factors in the practice environment that increase the risk of burnout.

โ€œIf I took the time to actually talk with my patients, which is what drew me to medicine in the first place, it meant I fell behind and then spent hours and hours at home in the evening doing the required data entry.โ€

Take an Active Approach to Prevent Burnout

How can one better manage the practice environment to promote a happy, healthy professional lifestyle? Hire more administrative assistants? Not quite.How do we do this?

Streamlining your patient flow operations is a huge step in the right direction in addressing practice management inefficiencies. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggest the following tactics for improving patient flow:

โ€ข Identify and eliminate logjams. For instance, an ophthalmology clinic found that patients who needed their pupils dilated were slowing down the flow because their appointment slot did not take this into consideration. The solution was to identify such patients and have them come 30 minutes prior to their consultation with the physician.

โ€ข Shift tasks previously handled by specialists to other health professionals such as physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. These tasks may include performing histories and physical exams, basic prescribing and ordering x-rays.

โ€ข Develop and use standardized order sheets for common conditions or procedures. By making it easier and faster for clinicians to communicate orders, this intervention enables them to spend more time with the patient. It also makes it more feasible for clinical staff to take on some of the clinicianโ€™s responsibilities.

โ€ข Develop standardized patient information and instruction sheets, possibly in conjunction with standardized order sheets and related protocols. These materials help staff streamline the patient education process while still ensuring that they meet the patientโ€™s need for appropriate education and information.

How Do We Make Things Easier?

We streamline - everything. Klara is a platform that enables your work to get done faster, with less effort expended by yourself and your staff (with over 80% of our users agreeing that Klara reduces administrative workload).

Fight burnout, streamline operations, boost patient retention all at once. Sign up for a free intro call with us to learn more.

Simon Bolz, Co-Founder, Klara

A serial entrepreneur, Simon founded two technology companies in Berlin. He then found his true passion in healthcare helping build Germanyโ€™s most innovative implantology clinic group. Simon studied at the London School of Economics, Humboldt Universitรคt Berlin, and got a Masters at the New School for Social Research in New York. In 2013, he and Simon Lorenz, Ph.D. founded Klara with the mission to transform communication in healthcare, so every patient can receive great care.

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