Simple steps to address physician burnout

By Matt Kuhrt

Increased patient loads and a growing administrative bureaucracy have contributed heavily to physician burnout, but practices may be able to make doctors' lives a lot easier by making some relatively minor changes, according to an article in Physicians Practice.

The current healthcare climate has had a sufficiently corrosive effect on physician morale to generate concern from the U.S. surgeon general. It has also led Art Caplan, Ph.D., director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, to describe the issue as "a public health crisis," per an article in Medscape, since burnout has a measurable effect on the quality of patient care. 

Physicians Practice suggests targeted tweaks aimed at the most pressing areas of concern to begin to address the issue and ease the pressure on doctors as quickly as possible. Here's a sampling:

  • Focus on wellness. Encouraging wellness practices such as yoga or meditation can help buoy practitioners' moods, says Regina Mixon Bates, CEO of The Physicians Practice S.O.S. Group.
  • Make more efficient use of doctors' time. The article provides several ideas to help keep physicians more focused on patient care and less on administrative tasks, including the development of more intuitive electronic health records, devoting more time per patient visit and delegating non-clinical tasks to support staff.
  • Embrace variety. Allowing doctors to practice from alternate offices and encouraging them to take shorter, more frequent vacations can help to keep them more fresh. Keith C. Borglum, a practice management consultant from Professional Management and Marketing, describes a successful model in which three physicians work in tandem to share the equivalent of two full-time positions.

To learn more:
- see the Physicians Practice story
- read the article on Medscape