Message from President

Matthew Hardin, MD

doctor exhaustion

Message from President Matthew Hardin, MD

Burnout is an Epidemic

M Hardin President of Academy of Medicine

The Academy was founded on the principle of being an advocacy group, speaking out for physicians and the practice of medicine.

It is with that same goal in mind, that the Academy operates today.

However, now there are numerous external influences that have steadily and efficiently worked their way into the health care system, making patients and physicians relative “bit-players” in the health care “machine.” As the number of “interested parties” increases, so too does the number of entities to whom we, as health care providers, must answer. 

In an opinion piece by Danielle Ofri, MD, in the New York Times from June of this year, she detailed the corporatization of health care and how reliant the system is on the ethical “duty” that most physicians feel to their patients and the profession. A drive that makes us feel it is appropriate to complete everything laid in front of us, tasks that are considered “part of the job.”

These extra burdens may seem like small amounts of time here and there, but it adds up quickly. We all triage patient concerns and work constantly throughout the day. How often do we put off finishing a note on a patient so that we can answer the two “urgent” phone calls that came in? Our midday “breaks” (I hesitate to call them lunch breaks) are filled with doing prior authorization requests, refilling medications, and engaging in stimulating “peer to peer” discussions with insurance company representatives. How frustrating it is when you must explain your thoughts to an individual that is reading an algorithm on “how to approve” a specific medical test with NO KNOWLEDGE of the patient, circumstance, or concerns of the doctor.

We can certainly hire more and more staff to handle this work. But that comes at what cost to the physician, the health care system, and – most importantly – the patients?

Health care is and should be a collaboration among multiple individuals, each bringing a necessary skill set to the evaluation and treatment process. However, all collaborative groups need a voice of leadership to make those final decisions and to instigate the treatment plan. Make no mistake, physicians are that leadership presence that our patients both need and desire. A large number of medical innovations and advances in knowledge have necessitated that others be involved in the process, but so many of them are more focused on the cost, convenience, or patient satisfaction score, and not the OUTCOME. 

We are the ones who are focused on the outcome. We are the ones who make the decisions to achieve it, and who are emotionally and professionally responsible when the outcome is not as desired. 

One of the aspects of the Academy that is most exciting is that is when it comes to physician issues, the walls between the systems are not apparent. The commonality that binds all physicians is tantamount — were the only criteria to membership, is being a physician and having a sincere appreciation in seeing an improvement in patient care and the practice of medicine.

It is more important than ever that we, as a collective voice of health care deliverers, stand together and help to exact positive change.

In this time of chaos, let us be a voice of reason and calm.

Attention to efficiency in health care delivery, decreasing superfluous work, and enhancing physician wellness, can only improve patient experiences and outcomes.

Improvement can occur through sharing our experiences and not being afraid to seek help when we are overwhelmed …

Improvement can occur when the administration seeks out physician concerns, and incorporates a substantial change to their policies with those concerns in mind …

Improvement can occur when physicians and hospital systems stand together against the ever-increasing demands being imposed by insurers …

Improvement can occur when we jointly educate our local and statehouse legislators on the true impact of suggested health care reform and the dangers of new laws that could negatively impact the majority of people while benefitting only a few …

Stemming this tide and invoking positive change WITH ACTIVE PHYSICIAN INPUT is mandatory for the health care “machine” to be sustainable.

— Excerpted from Dr. Hardin’s Annual Meeting address