Reducing Burnout: Three Physician Time Wasters That Can Be Fixed

EvidenceNOW is exploring a variety of strategies to help address physician burnout such as creating more teamwork within practices and balancing clinical staff and faculty ratios. John W. Beasley, MD, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, shares three suggestions studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address physician burnout by reducing the waste in a physician’s computer time.

docwithcomputertired3flipPhysicians are showing signs of burnout at record rates in all specialties and regions of the country. This has negative implications not only for physicians, but also for patients’ access to care and quality of care. Much of the problem relates to a physician’s inability to manage work-life balance with some studies showing as much as 1.4 hours a day of work after clinic when the clinic day is defined as a 10-hour day, five days a week. The good news is that there are ways to make very significant progress to reducing work after clinic. Here are three methods that we think will reduce the waste in a physician’s computer time:

  1. Encourage transcription with human assistance such as dictating to Dragon backed-up by a transcriptionist editing, or using a scribe (saves 6+ hours a week).
  2. Encourage physician’s paper and/or verbal order entry with someone else entering it into the computer so information would still be available for anybody wanting to view it (saves 3+ hours a week).
  3. Use “swipe” logins (saves 1+ hour a week)

Together these methods would save over 10 hours of work a week, possibly eliminating the need for physicians to work after clinic, thus avoiding being burned out by what are essentially administrative tasks. These are not changes you can implement in a day, but it’s worth exploring what it would take to incorporate these improvements into your practice.

Additional Reading on Burnout:

Karsh B-T, Beasley JW, Brown RL. Employed Family Physician Satisfaction and Commitment to Their Practice, Work Group, and Health Care Organization. Health Services Research. 2010;45(2):457-475. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2009.01077.x. PMCID: PMC2838155

Sinsky C, Colligan L, Li L, Prgomet M, Reynolds S, Goeders L, et al. Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties. Ann Intern Med. 2016;165:753-760. doi: 10.7326/M16-0961

Fairhurst K, May C. What General Practitioners Find Satisfying in Their Work: Implications for Health Care System Reform. Annals of Family Medicine. 2006;4(6):500-505. doi:10.1370/afm.565. PMCID: PMC1687165