How to Combat the Hidden Healthcare Hazard of Physician Burnout

Updated on August 26, 2023

Burnout can happen in any profession. It is especially rampant among healthcare providers, as they face stressors not seen in other jobs. For physicians, some causes of burnout include poor work-life balance, poor leadership, and lots of responsibility with little control in the medical field. These causes wear down emotional, spiritual, and physical energy, leaving physicians exhausted.

While burnout negatively impacts physicians’ mental and physical well-being, it also affects patients. The American Journal of Critical Care published a study that examined the impacts of burnout and found a strong correlation between burnout and medical errors. By reducing burnout, practices can help combat these errors to improve the quality of patient care and reduce healthcare costs. 

Patients notice these medical errors and the lesser-quality care they receive. A recent patient survey found that 73% of patients would leave a provider due to a poor experience with their practitioner, and 53% would leave due to a poor experience with the office staff. 

Fight burnout through digital transformation

Digital tools can ease clinicians’ burdens by making paperwork easier. They also tap into patients’ desire for a digitized experience and personalized care. They give front desk staff more time to ensure that every patient feels welcomed during their visit. Reducing your administrative staff’s stress can help to ease their burnout and encourage them to remain with your practice.

To reduce your staff’s administrative burdens, implement software that allows them to focus on more enriching patient interactions. A few notable solutions include:

  • Online patient scheduling: Allow your patients to manage some processes online by providing a solution for them to book, request, or change appointments at any time at their convenience. 
  • Digital payment tools: Online payments lessen paper invoices and make manual billing systems less time-consuming and tedious. Although not all patients receive medical bills electronically, our research shows that 59% prefer to pay their bills online.
  • Online intake forms: Moving your practice’s forms online frees front desk staff of excessive paperwork and reduces patient wait times. You can send links to intake forms via email or text, along with patients’ automated appointment reminders. 
  • HIPAA-compliant text messaging: Communicate directly with current and new patients using the most dominant method of communication today. Your staff will spend less time on phone calls, and patients will be able to communicate more effectively with providers and staff.

Encourage physician collaboration

Many physicians have internal programming that drives them to try to be a superhero who works alone. Unfortunately, this mindset increases the chances of burnout.

Physicians face expectations that exceed human capacity. Providers estimate that they need 26.7 hours each day to provide patient care. This time includes answering emails, documenting information, conducting preventative care visits, caring for patients with chronic diseases, and helping those with acute conditions. No individual can accomplish this feat alone.

When physicians work in a team, they can attain reasonable work hours and reduce their chances of burnout. In a team-based care environment, the work required of providers drops to 9.3 hours each day, even with all the same responsibilities as working alone.

When collaborating with other physicians, doctors don’t have the same time crunch as they do alone and can dedicate more time to documentation. An updated EHR for each patient facilitates the team approach to healthcare and limits burnout among providers by reducing workloads.

Mitigate burnout risk with self-care

Providers must take charge of their personal health and mental wellness. In a study of doctor stress, exercise and taking breaks reduce the risk of burnout.

Self-care involves prioritizing mental, physical, and spiritual health. Part of this strategy includes integrating regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet. Since a poor work-life balance can contribute to burnout, relaxing and finding enjoyment outside of work can help.

Stepping away from work is vital to work-life balance and taking a break from the stress of healthcare. A recent survey looked at how providers coped with stress in the aftermath of the pandemic surge and found that 79% of physicians took 4 weeks or fewer of vacation annually. A shocking 8% took less than a week off each year. 

Improving the working environment can also help to reduce burnout in providers. One option to do this is by creating a climate of thankfulness among staff. Physicians, nurses, and office staff should demonstrate mutual gratitude and support. Other workplace culture improvement methods include encouraging exercise and taking time off when needed. Building a supportive workplace culture can lower stress.

Take steps now to prevent burnout later

In the high-stress field of healthcare, burnout prevention is essential to preserving providers’ mental and physical health. Reducing stress and burnout ultimately allows clinicians to provide better patient care and lower their chances of making costly medical mistakes.

Using a well-designed, effective EHR and other software that encourages physician collaboration can improve patient care, reduce doctor working hours, and lower burnout. Self-care is also vital to reducing the chances of burnout. By taking proactive measures to lessen the impacts of excessive stress, all physicians can improve their well-being and ability to care for patients.

Travis Schneider 1
Travis Schneider

Travis Schneider is Co-founder and Chief Corporate Development Officer for Tebra, a leading cloud-based healthcare technology platform. In his role, Travis oversees M&A and strategic partnerships for the organization.