4 critical steps for reducing physician burnout in your practice

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Physician burnout has received a significant amount of attention over the years, but it continues to be a serious problem. Too many healthcare providers across the country are still struggling with symptoms of burnout. In fact, physicians are more burned out than similarly trained professionals in other fields, even when adjusted for hours worked per week.

If long workweeks alone aren’t the reason why physicians feel more burned out than other professionals, there may be something about the kind of work they do that contributes to burnout.

Here are four critical steps you can take to reduce physician burnout in your practice.

Acknowledging the problem

The first step to curbing or even eliminating physician burnout in your practice is simply acknowledging the problem. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around talking about your mental health, even in the practice space. Encouraging candid conversations between your physicians and other care providers can help get rid of the stigma. 

To start a dialogue and measure how your physicians are doing, you can establish wellness as a quality indicator for your practice. An annual wellness survey can help you identify what is happening throughout the practice, identify your physicians’ stressors, and be proactive about fixing them.

If you are looking to start a wellness survey, the Mayo Clinic has a free online well-being assessment, the Well-Being Index, that can help you get started. You can even share it with your physicians so they can test themselves anonymously.

Reducing the administrative burden

Most people who are experiencing burnout report feeling a work-related emotional exhaustion. For physicians, much of that exhaustion comes from their administrative burden. 

Administrative and bureaucratic tasks take physicians away from what they do best: care for their patients. If you’re not always tracking how much time your physicians spend doing administrative work, the actual number might surprise you. 

A 2014 study in the International Journal of Health Services found that the average doctor spends 8.7 hours per week on administrative work. That’s virtually an entire day, every week when your physicians aren’t treating patients.

Improving technology

Technology can be an amazing tool that helps us do our jobs better and more efficiently, but when it comes to physicians using the electronic medical record (EMR), it can have the opposite effect on their performance. According to the American Association for Physician Leadership, the more time physicians spend with the EMR, less time they tend to spend with patients. 

While the EMR is designed to help physicians communicate and coordinate care across the patient’s care continuum, the amount of data entry can lead to burnout. If your physicians are spending too much time inside the EHR, consider getting them a scribe or find other ways to ease the administrative burden.

Controlling the practice environment

Let’s face it: Practices can be chaotic places. That’s especially true if your practice has multiple physicians treating patients at the same time. Filled waiting rooms, ringing phones and patients constantly going in and out can lead to a lot of additional stress for your physicians and staff.

With a solution like IntakeQ, you can automate and optimize your intake process with secure, HIPAA-compliant digital forms. Since your patients have all their paperwork in before they come in for their appointment, your staff has enough time to prepare before they arrive. That means your patients spend less time in your waiting room filling out paperwork.

Here’s how it works.

While there may not be a single magic bullet for solving the physician burnout crisis, these steps can help us move in the right direction. Doctors who are feeling burned out tend to leave the practice, so making their mental health your top priority is essential. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

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