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The search for a cure for physician burnout

A day in the life of a physician includes an incredible array of tasks:

  • Patient-focused duties such as regularly scheduled patient visits, emergency patient visits and follow-ups
  • Documentation chores such as recording visits, writing up notes and writing prescription refill requests
  • Diagnostic tasks such as reviewing lab results and X-rays
  • Professional development efforts
  • Business-related tasks such as answering messages, speaking with pharmaceutical representatives, communicating with staff and ensuring the practice is compliant with all regulatory bodies

It is truly a monumental profession.


Before technology like X-rays and MRIs for testing and tablets for documentation, before more and more regulation, health care providers spent the majority of their time actually focusing on the patients themselves. Now in modern health care, however, physicians are only able to spend a fraction of their time with those for whom they give care.

That’s why more and more younger physicians are opting out of the optional Hippocratic Oath, what with its main facet of concentrating on the patient, and opting into revised ethics-based oaths or even no oaths at all. Those who choose a revised oath may be doing so because of a lack of faith in the Hippocratic Oath. In today’s health care field, a number of elements demand health care providers’ attention, and younger physicians want their oath to reflect that competition for their focus.


Not only that, but many physicians and medical students report that they feel the Hippocratic Oath leads to burnout, a huge issue in the medical field. The thinking goes that putting such emphasis on patient focus in the oath leads health care providers to put patients over a physician’s own well-being.

Certainly trying to give patients the same level of care that worked in generations past — while now having so many new tasks on their plates — puts an oversized load on today’s physicians. Health care providers often sacrifice not only their time but also their relationships and their own identities for their patients.


There are those in the medical profession looking to help their colleagues suffering from burnout, but they are treating the symptoms, not the cause. How can the health care industry prevent burnout from becoming an issue in the first place?

The idea behind eschewing the Hippocratic Oath is that revised oaths give differing paradigms to physicians. By eliminating the line physicians recite about putting patient care above all else, the physicians get a signal that their own lives don’t come second, that it is just as important to take care of themselves as it is to take care of their patients.

Feasibly, administrators can also prevent burnout by cutting down on the herculean amount of tasks expected to be completed by physicians day in and day out. Policy management software gives physicians the capacity to focus more on the patients, since they aren’t worrying about where to find documents, getting ready for inspections or keeping on top of maintaining compliance.


PolicyStat’s search function with typo correction makes it easy to find whatever information is needed by physicians or staff. Automated periodic review reminders, approval routing, integrated collaboration, electronic signatures, and powerful reporting help providers keep policies up-to-date and maintain compliance. No more stressful last-minute scrambling. Physicians will know that policies are in order and that staff can find them. All of these features can lessen stress and help prevent burnout.


What other ideas do you have for preventing physician burnout? Did you take the Hippocratic oath, a revised version or no oath at all? How has that affected you in your practice? Let us know with a blog or Facebook comment.

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