Top 10 Reasons Doctors Are Burnt Out and What To Do About It

dr. cheng ruan Feb 03, 2022
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Doctors are some of the most burnt out professionals in the world. According to a study by Medscape, 54% of doctors reported feeling burnt out in 2016. This is up from 45% in 2012. I can't imagine what the numbers are now during the global pandemic.

There are many reasons for this, and it's important to address them before they cause more doctors to leave the profession altogether. In this blog post, we will discuss the top 10 reasons doctors get burnt out and what we can do about it!


Reason #01: Too Much Paperwork


One of the main reasons doctors get burnt out is because of all the paperwork we have to do. This includes filling out charts, documenting patient visits, and ordering lab tests. All of this paperwork takes away from our time with the people we love and can be very frustrating.


What You Can Do About It:

First, make sure your electronic medical record charting is done before you leave home. If you feel like this is impossible, try finding solutions like using scribes or dictation software.

Second, make sure to train your staff to fill in what they can on forms and documents and have you fill in the rest. Althought some forms may seem simple, every second counts. Besides, we want to accumulate time to spend with our families!

Third, make sure technology is automated. For example, if you have paperwork that is physical paper but either lose it or forget to take it with you that can delay your workflow. Make sure to keep everything as digital as possible so your staff can fill it out and send you the rest to fill out yourself no mater where you are. Sometimes, it's nice to bring your laptop to sit at a cafe and sip on a latte and complete tasks.


Reason #02: Lack Of Time With Patients


Another reason doctors get burnt out is because we don't have enough time with patients. This could be due to scheduling conflicts or simply not having enough hours in the day to meet the revenue needed to break overhead costs! Quality time with patients actually doesn't have to be longer, it just has to be more productive.


What You Can Do About It:

First, make sure patients have the option to pre-fill out their goals of the visit prior to the date of the visit. It allows the patient to be proactive and you know EXACTLY what their expectations are before you start your encounter. This actually keeps the patient invested in the visit so it reduces no-show rates.

Second, make sure your actions are things ONLY you can do. If someone else is able to get paperwork done, triage, and get medical records, getting a past medical history, make sure you train them to do so. You want to practice at the top of your license, and more importantly, at the top of your salary which means every minute you spend with the patient is efficient and far more effortless.

Last, consider boosting your revenue doing group visits. If you're a doctor that loves to teach, then group visits (shared medical appointments) may be for you. I've done this for a number of years and honestly our patients love it, become more compliant, and look forward to their visit every time. Furthermore, since we do more group visits, we are able to extend our one on one visits longer since the group visits offset cost! If you're looking for how to do this, you can find the CME course related to executing and billing group visits in the Integrative Practice Builder!


Reason #03: Long Hours And Working Overtime

If you're tired of working long hours, then you're note alone. Let us discuss some of the reasons why doctors work overtime and why!

We have been taught that exchanging time for money is the most efficient way of making a living. However, we tend to forget that the reason why want to make money is to SPEND time, not just SPEND money. While we can make up stories about how this patient or that patients needs us, those get old once burnout starts to set in.

What You Can Do About It:

What most entrepreneurs understand is that it has never been about exchanging time for money. It's about exchanging resources for money. In fact, doctors have lots of resources that CAN be hacked to exchange for money. Things include ancillary services, executive assistants, nannys, and other doctors are all resources that can be exchanged for money. I know what you're thinking: "Wait, but all that COSTS money!" This is the mentality that most doctors need to break through to understand is that that time can be bought with money ONLY through resources. I mean, how did Elon Musk create a car company, a rocket company, and a med tech company all at the same time? He had leverage because he understood basic business principles that helps him scale.

If you got the entrepreneurial bug, come into the Integrative Practice Builder to break through to how successful people leverage resources (unlimited) rather than time (limited).


Reason #04: Too Much Stress

One of the main reasons doctors get burnt out is because of all the stress we experience on a daily basis. This can be from dealing with difficult patients, long hours, or financial pressures. It's no wonder why so many doctors end up quitting or finding side gigs to eventually quit!


What You Can Do About It:

The best way to reduce stress in the workplace is by creating a positive work environment. This includes providing those around you with adequate resources, such as staff support and professional development opportunities. It's also important that they feel appreciated by their bosses so they don't feel like just another cog in the machine. Small tokens of appreciation such as stickers to stick on your staff's scrubs can send a message of appreciation and humor.

Wonder how you get your staff to adopt your mindset and to run with you, not against you? I cover this on a section of the Integrative Practice Builder called "Special Operations".


Reason #05: Lack Of Work/Life Balance

This is one of the biggest problems facing doctors today. We often expected to work long hours with little or no time off for vacation, family emergencies, etc... This can lead to major burnout if not handled properly!


What You Can Do About It:

One way you can help reduce this problem is by creating a schedule that allows for some flexibility in terms of when you see patients vs when you allow time to do meditation, take a 10 min walk outside, or even call your friends/family. Another thing would be encouraging all staff members (including physicians) to take regular breaks throughout the day. This will help rejuvenate them and make them more productive. Most doctors I know are terrified to do this since it may interrupt office operations. In reality, if operations is already interrupted, having your staff take breaks can actually help them reset and organize.

Another way to handle this is to outsource your personal tasks that you hate to do such as laundry or cleaning. This allows you to be fully present with your family and friends so you can truly unwind. Although this seems "expensive" I have never had any doctors tell me they regret doing this!


Reason #06: Having To Take Care Of Patients Who Are Non-Compliant

One of the most frustrating things for doctors is having to take care of patients who are non-compliant with their treatment plan. This can often lead to increased stress, frustration, and burnout.


What You Can Do About It:

I find that labeling the visit right off the bat and asking patients what your role is as a doctor for them creates a lighter conversation. For example, if someone is in your office, and your medical assistant writes "in office for refills", then ask the patient "I have you down this visit for refills of your medications, but what I really want to know is other than refilling your medications, what role do I have in your journey for your health?" Labeling and asking for roles or relationship labeling is a powerful tool that is underutilized. This is used by the best negotiators in the world, and is something I learned in an FBI interrogation tactics book.

If you want to dive deep into to the topic of addressing non-compliant patients, make sure to join me in the Integrative Practice Builder.


Reason #07: The Administrative Hassles Of Medicine

Doctors are often bogged down with paperwork and administrative tasks that have nothing to do with patient care. This can be very frustrating and lead to burnout over time.

What You Can Do About It:

One way to tackle this is to involve the patients in their own paperwork. I often have scheduled phone calls with patients to go over their paperwork to help the achieve their goals. This could include filling out insurance forms, requesting medical records, or making appointments for follow-up visits. If everyone pitches in, it will take some of the burden off of your shoulders and allow you more time to focus on their patients!

But wait, doesn't that take time away from your patient visits that generate revenue? No, actually it can be quite the opposite. New billing CPT codes such as 99441 or G2251 actually describe digital or audio connections (like phone calls) with patients, and the reimbursement per minute averaged out is actually higher than your standard E&M codes.

But what if you need to talk to another physician about your patient case? Did you know there are interprofessional CPT consult codes that can be reimbursed by talking/texting/emailing another medical professional for your patient?

Learn about this and more in the Master the ReveNEW section in the Integrative Practice Builder!


Reason #08: Having To See Too Many Patients In A Short Period Of Time

One of the main reasons doctors get burnt out is because we see too many patients in a short period of time. This can lead to rushed visits, incomplete assessments, and more stress overall.


What You Can Do About It:

Above, we talked about having too little time to spend on each patient encounter. Here we talk about seeing too many patients in a short amount of time. While that may seem similar, the solutions can be different. If you think about it, whenever we switch from one task to another, we seem to lose productivity in between. This is the same with patients as well. Did you know splitting your quicker easier follow ups to telemedicine can actually be the answer to this? Doing telemedicine blocks can be a powerful way to discuss results, plan with patients, and even reiterate things from a previous visit. This requires much less time from your in-house staff so they can be more productive getting your next day's patients ready for you to be seen while you chat away at the web cam. This is an incredible stress reliever to you and your staff!


Reason #09: Having To Deal With Patients Who Are Angry Or Difficult

It's no secret that doctors often have to deal with difficult patients who are angry or confrontational. This can be very frustrating and lead to a lot of cursing and hairloss. How many times can you think of when a patient is triggered and it has nothing to do with you, the doctor? Patients who are angry are often not angry at the doctor, but angry at the administrative or billing staff.


What You Can Do About It:

Communication, leadership, and delegation are crucially important for your administrative, staff. In fact, one department gets completely overlooked but has possibly the most impactful role for your patients mood when you see them: Scheduling.

I have an entire training series dedicated to how doctors should optimize their scheduling staff to create fluid and effortless patient encounters, outcomes, and positive reviews! Check on the Contact section in the Integrative Practice Builder!


Reason #10: The Financial Pressures Of Medicine

Doctors are often under a great deal of financial pressure due to the high loans require to get through medical school and residency. Not only that, expense such as rent, licensing, malpractice insurance premiums are downright ridiculous in some states. We also NEVER got financial education. I wrote an entire other blog on this called Why Great Doctors Tend to be Terrible with Money Management.


What You Can Do About It:

For personal finance and business finance education, the best way is an immersive experience! My good friend, Tyler McBroom has a great community and I wrote about him in this blog. He is an accountant who has helped many doctors (like me) turn their personal and professional finances around and get on a path to financial success! He has a new membership called Cash Profit Accelerator that I am learning a TON from.



Based on your learning happening in this Journal / Blog Post Reflection & how it applies to your day-to-day, please capture your reflections here to unlock AMA PRA Category 1 CMEs: 


Cheng Ruan, MD

CEO of Texas Center for Lifestyle Medicine

Founder of Integratice Practice Builder

Disclaimer: I may receive compensation (payment) to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though I receive compensation for posts or advertisements, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.

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