ZDoggMD and the Prescription for Physician Burnout

Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a diminishing sense of accomplishment = Burnout. It’s a silent epidemic among  physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. It’s not enough that the lives of patients are at stake. Workloads are mounting, regulatory pressure is increasing and payment models are changing. According to a 2017 National Academy of Medicine paper, burnout is twice as common among physicians as it is among professionals in other fields.  It’s more common among physicians under the age of 45 and more common among female physicians (55% of female physicians compared to 45% of males). Burnout costs the nation over $150 billion a year in physician turnover, medical errors and lost productivity from early retirement. In fact, 1 in 50 doctors plans to retire in the next 2 years. If even one third of them follow through, the nation will lose a physician pool equivalent to the graduating class of 19 medical schools. Here’s the most chilling statistic: A 2015 Mayo Clinic study showed that more than 7% of doctors had considered suicide in past 12 months (compared to 4% in other fields), and about 400 doctors a year end their lives by suicide.

What is one of the biggest sources of frustration? Cumbersome EHRs which have turned physicians into data entry clerks. Remote 24/7 access to EHRs means that doctors see the same number of patients (or more) in the office and then document on them at night. The average physician spends 30 hours a month updating electronic records after hours. Data shows that physician EHR use peaks at 10 AM and 10 PM on weekends. As a result, 75% of doctors don’t get enough sleep or exercise and their personal lives are impacted. Does this sound familiar? It does to me.

I have one thing in my favor – my temper. I’m angry about it all and I’m channeling my anger into completely changing the way that doctors interact with their EHR. That means I get to divide my time between patient care (which I love) and the mission we have at Intellicure to change the EHR experience, which helps me retain my enjoyment of medicine, specifically wound care. And, having to actually USE an EHR means I keep my sense of purpose the rest of the week. Still, I can’t deny it. I’m tired.

I don’t think I’ll be getting adequate sleep any time soon, but I’m trying to enjoy other things when I can. That’s why I just spent about 45 minutes laughing at the often politically incorrect You Tube music videos of Zubin Damania, MD, a Stanford trained internist who led addressed his physician burnout performing stand-up comedy for medical audiences and is now an internet sensation as ZDoggMD. His satirical videos about our dysfunctional healthcare system have half a billion views on Facebook and YouTube. His goal is catalyzing the transformation of healthcare delivery. You could listen to his fantastic and very funny TEDMD talk while you are doing your charting . . .

The AMA hosts a special site featuring resources for physician burnout.

Find a healthy way to channel your burnout, and hang in there. We all need you.