Born to Save Lives, Stuck on a Keyboard: The Impact of Physician Burnout

Physician burnout is emotional exhaustion experienced by those in the healthcare industry. Much of it stems from overwhelming amounts of work and tasks to complete, causing physicians to feel fatigued, cynical, and distant in conversations with others. It is a growing phenomenon and has had a dramatic impact on the lives of physicians.


The Facts About Physician Burnout

Unfortunately, the growth of physician burnout has caused it to become a widespread epidemic. In a questionnaire sent to over 7,000 doctors, almost half complained of the same symptoms that define physician burnout: emotional exhaustion, detachment, and more. The researchers even compared their results with 3,500 people working in other fields and found that doctors were the most likely to suffer from burnout. In another study, nearly 55% of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of physician burnout. Only 40% reported satisfaction with work-life balance, which was an 8% decrease in satisfaction when the same question was asked three years prior.

There are several potential causes for this burnout, and one of the biggest attributed reasons is the growth of administrative tasks causing doctors to work longer hours. EHR systems are meant to help healthcare facilities better organize and centralize their patient data, but making updates to the EHR system after every patient visit is time-consuming and exhausting for physicians. They are stuck on a keyboard, often working late at night in order to document patient information so that they can obtain the appropriate level of reimbursement on a timely basis.

The Impact of Physician Burnout

We have identified seven major effects of physician burnout: disruptive behavior, increased medical errors—which in the healthcare industry could mean life or death—increased risk of malpractice, failed relationships, substance abuse, lower patient satisfaction scores, and longer patient recovery times. Learn to recognize some of the symptoms so you can help the physicians that you work with, but also recognize these are not the only symptoms.

The impact of this burnout isn’t just impacting current physicians who have been practicing medicine for years. It is also impacting medical students and residents. Suicide is the second largest cause of death among medical residents; it has truly become a life-threatening issue that you need to be aware of at your healthcare facility. Physician burnout isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Make time with the physicians you work with to ask them how they’d rate their pain, particularly as it relates to EHR documentation.

Additionally, physician burnout is also impacting the productivity of healthcare facilities. Because of EHR inefficiencies, administrative tasks are growing, and many healthcare facilities have not learned to compensate for this increased workload. In fact, 43% of physicians state they still have not overcome productivity losses associated with their EHR system.

Diagnosing and taking steps to prevent burnout is critical to the productivity of your healthcare facility, the well-being of your physicians, and the satisfaction of your patients.

Read our complete guide on physician burnout to learn more about the symptoms, effects, and treatments of this growing epidemic.

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