20 February, 2020,

Overworked and Overstressed Doctors: Is There a Solution for all that Paperwork?

4 minute read

Digital Medical Innovations

From Europe to the US to the far East, there is a continuing worldwide decrease in physician job satisfaction. According to multiple studies around the world, doctors are less happy and more stressed at work, and many would not recommend the profession to a young person.

Why doctor job satisfaction matters

The specifics of physician job satisfaction are incredibly important, as unhappiness on the job affects a doctor's performance in a number of ways.

Take for example:

  • Job effectiveness. Unhappy physicians are less effective in their jobs. These physicians still continue to provide high quality care and needed medical services, but doctor job satisfaction tangibly affects patient compliance and healthcare outcomes. Simply put, doctor satisfaction drives patient satisfaction.     
  • Doctor retention. It goes without saying that unhappy doctors are more likely to retire early, leave their practice, or reduce their hours. In the US, turnover of a single physician can cost as much as $250,000 to a medical practice.


Causes for low doctor job satisfaction

Almost all doctors report a high level of enjoyment with their patient and community interactions. However, around the world, certain themes arise over and over as contributors to physician dissatisfaction.

  • Loss of autonomy. Physicians, particularly in the US, feel that insurers, formularies, regulations, and other factors are dictating their patient care, and that they aren't able to use their experience and skills to provide the care they deem appropriate.
  • Excessive paperwork and administrative tasks. Administrative work now takes up more than 16% of a physician's time, and the burden is higher on family physicians who have to take comprehensive medical histories.     
  • Increasing workload. The aging population, financial pressures, and other factors lead physicians to work longer hours, and to see more patients per hour. Many physicians are spending more time at work, compromising their work/life balance, and feeling more time pressure at work, making them feel that they aren't delivering the quality of care they would prefer.


How administrative and clerical work affects doctors and clinics in the Netherlands.

A longitudinal study shows that, while Dutch doctors are overall satisfied with their work and professions, they are increasingly dissatisfied with the amount of administrative work that is required of them. Between 2000 and 2009, physician's organizational obligations increased, which negatively affected job satisfaction. Data from the Netherlands confirms similar findings in the US, where physicians spend up to one sixth of their workday on administrative tasks.


Solutions for doctor overwork

One potential solution to reducing this administrative burden is to have patients complete their own health record data, entering their information into a database that is used by medical professionals. John Bachman, MD suggests that this solution provides several advantages for physicians. Patients can complete their Electronic Health Records at home or in a waiting room, with specialized software that can adapt to ask the relevant followup questions and gather necessary details.

Such a method is time-efficient, saving medical staff from the task of doing data entry during their limited office consultation time. Additionally, these methods are proven to gather more information than is given during a conventional history taking, perhaps because patients also feel time pressure during their office visits and omit details they think are irrelevant. Such systems also streamline and prioritize office visits, and reduce the amount of “oh by the way” complaints.

While patient-centered EHR software isn't the perfect solution for every patient, and care needs to be taken that such systems be intuitive to use, multilingual, and culturally sensitive, adopting such systems may help reduce one of the primary reasons for physician dissatisfaction, and improve outcomes for doctors and patients.

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