Study links burnout to electronic environment

By Richard I. Levin, MD
President and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation

A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that a leading factor in physician burnout is the increasing dependence on digital technology in medicine. It makes sense – the more focused health professionals are on screens, on Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and on electronic clerical work, the less time they have to interact on a personal level with patients. The digital world takes away a part of what they love about their jobs, leaving them less fulfilled and more stressed. However, prior to this research, few studies had evaluated the new electronic environment and its affect on physician well being.

I am encouraged that the Mayo Clinic is highlighting this topic, and I hope it is a start to finding real solutions to the increasing, and often devastating, problem of burnout in the health professions.  As President of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, this has been a main concern, and focus, of ours for decades. In fact, three of the authors of the study – Drs. Lotte Dyrbye,  Tait Shanafelt, and Colin West — are grantees of the Gold Foundation Research Institute’s Mapping the Landscape, Journeying Together project, an initiative aimed at promoting understanding of the impact of humanism in healthcare.

Last fall, I was invited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to speak to this topic at their annual conference. You can listen to my plenary talk here.

I will also be speaking about this topic at Medscape’s Beating Burnout: Essential Help for Physicians Beating Burnout Conference in New York City on July 28. (Update: Watch a video from the conference.)

Too many healthcare professionals are walking away, or worse, committing suicide each year. We can no longer sit back and say this is just part of what being a doctor is all about. We need to find solutions, and make real changes on the ground so that doctors are less burdened by inadequate technology and can go back to delivering compassionate, scientifically excellent care that includes a relationship between the doctors and patients.  In short, keeping healthcare human.