Physician burnout is a growing concern for medical practices across the US.  The feeling of being overworked can be blamed for countless mistakes, poor patient interactions, and even death through suicide.  The challenges faced by physicians today are well documented.

Some of the factors that go into physician burnout and frustration seem to be getting worse – like complex payer models and EMRs.   I don’t have any answers there!  However, other challenges that physicians face could possibly be improved by the way you position yourself as a provider.

As with most of life’s problems, the solutions to physician burnout aren’t simple and the underlying issues are complex.  That said, here are some ideas that could help lead to less physician burnout.

Problem: Physicians lose enthusiasm for work

Physician BurnoutMany physicians have preferences for the types of patients they see.  Despite that, most of those physicians don’t take steps to see more of the patients they want.  This makes for frustrating days and feelings of providing less-than-top-notch medical care.

When are you at your best?  When you’re at your best, you’re feeling great. Your confidence is high.  Patients see that confidence and are more likely to follow their plan of care.  Is it when you deal with a certain type of patient?  Treat a certain disease state?

Attract more of what you want.  Attracting more of what you want doesn’t have to be hard or expensive, but it isn’t an overnight fix.

Disease States:

  • If there’s a certain disease state you enjoy treating, make sure it’s listed on your online profile, practice brochure, and any other existing material your practice has.
  • Let your referring physicians know about your preferences. (E.g.  It can be a simple note that says: Dear John, thanks so much for your recent referrals to my practice.  I wanted to let you know lately I’ve been seeing a lot more kidney stone patients due to the warmer temperatures.  I would appreciate you keeping me in mind for these patients.)
  • Target the demographic with inexpensive ads: Facebook ads are super-targeted and very inexpensive right now. If you love treating BPH patients, advertising directly to men over 50 is the way to go.
  • If you’ve specialized too far and you desire more variety in your practice, take the opposite approach.

Likable Patients:  It’s not polite to say, but some patients are more likable than others.  They are more polite, respectful, adhere to your recommendations, etc.  The good news is that people tend to run in crowds of like-minded people and families.

  • Try writing one hand-written thank-you note to your favorite patient each day for a month. This gesture, extremely rare from a physician, is likely to spur many conversations among the very people you’d like your schedule to be filled with.

Physician BurnoutProblem: Rising Operating Costs and Falling Reimbursement Causes Stress

Increasing profitability despite increased costs for compliance and frustrating payer models isn’t easy.  Just like our personal lives, the more ‘cushion’ we have in our budget, the more comfortable we feel. 

Increase Market Share of Higher-Paying  Visits or Procedures

Financial motives shouldn’t be at the top priority of your practice, but maintaining profitability to ensure you’re business doesn’t fail should be.

For some, this may be easier than others.  In urology, vasectomies are a relatively simple procedure with a market price is close to $1000, and may even be subsidized by insurance.  Creating an afternoon once a week when only vasectomies are performed can be highly efficient and profitable.  Optimizing your marketing strategy (think digital, not billboards) can make this even more profitable.

You may also consider services that you can provide for cash-paying patients.  Creating a profit source that doesn’t involve complex and time-consuming billing can benefit your practice.  More and more physicians are transitioning more and more of their business to this type of model.

Add & Market Ancillary Services

Adding ancillary services like imaging, labs, or a pharmacy can help you keep more profit in-house.  For instance, if you’re an urgent care or ER facility, having imaging on-site can be profitable – but only if it gets used.  Proper branding and targeted marketing is essential.  It would be wise for an ER facility with on-site imaging to position themselves as a concussion and sports injury facility rather than cold and flu experts.

Problem: Increasing Disrespect of Profession

Are you positioning yourself and your practice as an expert in your field? Best in class? If not – you could be contributing to the problem. Your physician profile and website should inspire confidence and trust before patients ever meet you in person.

Enhance Online Profile  You can enhance your physician profile by including professional images, personal images to create a ‘liking effect’, awards and recognition, and testimonials from other happy patients.

Summary – Physician Burnout

These steps aren’t going to solve the issue of physician burnout, but taking a little bit of action to help make the days more comfortable will help lead to a positive result.

On behalf of patients everywhere, thank you for your service, compassion, and willingness to help.