The Greeley Company
May 24, 2019 4 Min Read

Ask a CMO: Moving the Needle on Physician Burnout

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Questions and Answers from The Greeley Company “Survey Hot Spots” Online Learning

On May 23, 2019 The Greeley Company held a national online webcast covering the Physician Burnout Epidemic. (View this free webinar.)

This post is an insightful Q&A with Greeley’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rick Sheff, on his approach to addressing physician burnout.

Physician burnout is an epidemic, and like most epidemics, there isn’t one simple solution. However, the Greeley Company has been working on a solution for years. Dr. Richard Sheff, Chief Medical Officer, brings more than 25 years of healthcare management and leadership experience to his work with physicians, hospitals, and healthcare systems nationwide. With his distinctive combination of medical, healthcare, and management acumen, Dr. Sheff has developed a solution for diagnosing and treating physician burnout.

Question: Why do you think physician burnout is an epidemic?

  • Answer: Improving patient care and lowering the cost of healthcare are top priorities in the US, but none of this can be addressed if our providers and clinicians are burned out and inaccessible. A recent report in Medscape found that 44% of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout in 2019. The proportion of physicians screening positive for depression continued to rise to almost 42%, and the rate of suicide and depression in doctors is more than twice than that of the general population. This equates to more than one medical school graduating class a year dying from suicide, a grim reminder of one of the most devastating impacts of burnout. After years of research on physician burnout, Greeley is finally ready to stop discussing the issue and start helping organizations find solutions. Our free webinar on Physician Burnout unveils our breakthrough approach for healthcare organizations and medical leaders to effectively turn the tide of the physician burnout epidemic.

Question: What are the leading drivers of physician burnout?

  • Answer: There are several significant factors driving physician burnout. First, there is emotional exhaustion, and the inability to recover when away from work. This is a prevalent issue for physicians whose decisions can significantly impact a patient’s life. This can often lead to depersonalization, when physicians are unable to connect with their patients and develop a negative or cynical attitude. Additionally, there is the added stress of integrating EHR with physician care. A study by the Rhode Island Department of Health reported that 70% of physicians using EHRs measured one symptom of IT-related stress, and of that group, less than 30% reported that EHRs improve job satisfaction. When physicians experience a reduced sense of personal accomplishment, an overall dissatisfaction with their job sets in. Ultimately, burnout is a symptom of a broken healthcare system.

Question: Why do you think the healthcare system is failing physicians and leading to burnout?

  • Answer: Healthcare success is three-fold: we must find a way to achieve physician success/satisfaction, hospital/healthcare system success, and good patient care at the same time. Overvaluing any one of these to the neglect of the others will result in hospital system failure.  Healthcare is already a scarce resource, so it is our duty to find a solution to keeping our medical providers engaged and satisfied so they can provide good patient care.Physicians increasingly experience an inability to provide the care they believe their patients need and deserve without undue interference from other’s directives, conflicting incentives, and the ever daunting EMR. All healthcare stakeholders are acting on their own self-interest, and unless we find a way to act in the interest of the whole, then we will fail to turnaround the performance of the American healthcare system.

Question: What is The Greeley Company doing to help solve physician burnout?

  • Answer: We have developed a high-level action plan for organizations to better understand and immediately address the multifactorial causes of physician burnout, and practical ways to help turn It around. In addition to our free webinar available on Physician Burnout, we are also hosting an educational program in October that will continue to provide medical executives and physician leaders solutions to their most challenging needs, including the physician burnout epidemic. Registration details for this event can be found here. 

Question: What can organizations start doing immediately to help reduce physician burnout?

  • Answer: There is an overwhelming need to enhance integration and connectedness among medical staff. I encourage staffs to find their shared purpose, or their ‘Why’ factor for why they pursued a career in healthcare. All too often we find healthcare organizations experiencing high levels of conflict and low levels of trust, especially between physicians and hospitals/healthcare systems. If this describes your organization, take active steps to heal the past and create the foundation for collaboration going forward. Getting called into hospitals to turn around these issues is some of the most gratifying work that we do at The Greeley Company.

Would you like a personalized action plan for effectively moving the needle on your organization’s physician burnout challenges? Contact us at 1.888.749.3054, email us at or complete the form below to start the conversation.

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