Combating Physician Burnout – Let’s Stop Treating Physicians Like Factory Workers

Posted on July 1, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Have you ever seen the Love Medicine Again website? I hadn’t either until yesterday, but it says something that someone would need to create a website like that in the first place. Many doctors are quite unhappy with their life as a doctor and where medicine is heading. I actually came across this website thanks to their article titled “5 Ways to Use Creativity to Combat Physician Burnout.” Here’s the 5 suggestions they make to put creativity to work to reduce physician burnout:

  1. Allow your staff to help you with your schedule
  2. Voice your concerns about something that isn’t working to your colleagues
  3. Give credit where credit is due
  4. Engage your patients to help you help them
  5. Think outside of the box about how to bring improved satisfaction to your job

I wasn’t that impressed with the list. It seems to gloss over the core of what’s burning physicians out. I do love the idea of providing opportunities for physicians to be creative. That has definitely been pushed to the side in many offices.

One of the most common complaints I hear from doctors is “Stop making me be a data entry clerk.” I think this was largely true in the paper world, but it has been made even more so in the world of EHR thanks to things like meaningful use that require a lot of hoop jumping and box clicking to comply. We could certainly do more to make the data entry work easier, but that still just masks the problems.

I think that doctors saying they don’t want to be a data entry clerk is really a proxy for “I want to be creative and thoughtful in how I approach medicine. I don’t have time to be creative.”

The 15 minute (or less) per appointment hits this same pain point. Doctors want to get paid and so they feel the economic reality is that they need to see as many patients as possible. This economic reality leaves no time for doctors to be creative. I think they feel more like factory workers than highly educated leaders.

If we want to solve the physician burnout problem we need to find ways to tap into a physician’s creativity. We need to free them up for churning out patients so they can leverage all their education and experience to solve the larger problems of healthcare. It’s not very often that overworked factory workers are able to solve massive problems. They’re too busy working to think about the larger context. We need to stop treating our doctors like factory workers to solve healthcare’s larger problems.