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Help Physicians Get Off the Burnout Track

May 9, 2017

In a recent survey, the Mayo Clinic found that more than half of U.S. physicians are experiencing symptoms of burnout. This was up significantly from a study three years earlier, although burnout among the general population stayed flat.

In both studies, the rate of depression among doctors was 39 percent. But the rate of suicidal thoughts for doctors jumped from 4 percent to 7 percent – meaning one in 14 physicians has considered suicide.

The pressures doctors face continue to increase amid accelerating change in healthcare and the relentless demand to demonstrate business value. So there’s reason to believe these upward trends will continue in the future.

A medical practice alone can’t solve the problem of physician burnout, but a practice can help mitigate it. For example, consider a 2017 Medscape survey in which 51 percent of doctors – both male and female – reported burnout. The two main causes they identified were excessive paperwork and long hours.

Neither of these is beyond a practice’s control. Administrative tasks like paperwork are a poor use of a physician’s time – an investment in staff or technology can ease the burden considerably. And adding one doctor to a practice will immediately free up at least 40 hours for the rest of the physicians.

But won’t revenue suffer? It could – but every practice has to weigh this against the cost of human suffering. The classic symptoms of burnout are loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism and a low sense of personal accomplishment. The end result can be far worse.

Healthcare Practice Strategies - Spring 2017

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