Physician Burnout the Enlightened CFO and the Business Case for Physician Wellbeing

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician burnout enlightened cfo dike drummond business case for physician wellbeingPhysician Burnout, the Enlightened CFO and the Business Case for Physician Wellbeing

If your CFO fully understood the financial impact of physician burnout, they could be your biggest C-Suite physician wellness champion. 

They could lead the Quadruple Aim charge by convincing the CEO, CMO and even the Board of Directors/Trustees to invest in the health and wellbeing of the providers. They could make a solid business case for a multifaceted return on investment (RIO) in physician wellness across the organization.

Why is it not happening in every healthcare organization across the USA?

1) Here is a recent JAMA Article on 
the Business Case for Burnout Prevention

2) Your Corporate Physician Wellbeing Strategy
is here at our WellMDWorks web page

physician leadership gets easy

Three CMO Reasons to Invest in Physician Wellness

1) Physician Wellness Will Provide First Mover Advantage 

A decisive first mover advantage is available to leadership teams who focus on the Quadruple Aim.

A little bit of historical context first:

With the exception of Academic Institutions and certain longstanding large physician groups (Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, etc.), organizations that employ 100 or more physicians are a very new development in the US healthcare system. Now every geographic area with a population of over 100,000 - across the USA - has one or more large physician employers, usually based on the local hospitals.

In most cases the physicians were in private, doctor owned and operated practices until just a few years ago. Now the hospital owns them, their facilities and staff. Each organization is trying to figure out how to manage the care and feeding of these large, diverse groups of providers - a task they have never had to master until this wave of consolidation began.

And the doctors are obviously suffering from the loss of autonomy, and inefficient systems of care that are now mandated by their new employers. Burnout rates are sky high and pervasively damaging to the Profit and Loss Statement (see below)

As I will outline below, the organizations who learn how to take better care of their doctors will obtain a dual competitive advantage over any organization who fails to optimize the health and wellbeing of their providers.

A decisive first mover advantage is available to leadership teams who focus on the Quadruple Aim.

2) Physician Burnout is the Single Largest Reversible Drag on Financial Performance

a) Repeated surveys in the last several years show burnout rates among physicians to be over 50%. Physician Burnout is everywhere all the time, whether or not your organization is doing anything about it at this time.

b) Burnout cripples the performance of the organization at multiple levels.

Physician burnout causes …

- Physician disengagement, disruptive behavior and resistance to change
- Lower levels of clinical care quality and patient satisfaction
- Higher levels of medical errors and malpractice risk
- Higher levels of physician and staff turnover
- Higher levels of physician divorce, alcohol and drug addiction and suicide

( See our comprehensive Physician Burnout Bibliography and Reference Library for specific citations for all points above )

Quality indicators, patient satisfaction scores, medical errors and turnover are all now major financial pain points. If you cannot  hit your quality and satisfaction metrics and hold on to good people, everyone is working to hard for too little return.

You don’t have to be a CFO to see how just one of these physician burnout effects hammers your bottom line. Put them together and what have you got? If your business was a ship, you are taking on water from a dozen different holes in your hull and everyone is bailing as fast as they can to keep you afloat.

3) The Dual Competitive Advantage of Physician Wellness
When you take better care of your physicians and staff, you reverse the negative effects of physician burnout. 

- Physicians are more engaged
- Change management becomes simpler and the organization more nimble
- Trust levels increase
- Recruitment and retention are easier
- Quality and both patient and staff satisfaction scores increase
- Error rates and malpractice risk fall 
- And the toll of depression, drug and alcohol addition and suicide risk all decrease

The Dual Competitive Advantage is Simple To See

1) You become the Provider of Choice to your payors
They can see your superior performance across the metrics they use to track patient care, satisfaction and outcomes. The payors can see your care is more valuable than that from other provider organizations who don't take action to optimize physician wellbeing.

2) You become the employer of choice to the remaining independent doctors in your community 
When independent doctors decide to become employees, they see you as the only logical choice because of the way you treat your people. 


I doubt your CFO is making these points in the C-Suite right now. Here’s why the CFO is silent.

This whole process is invisible to them.
The costs of turnover, disengagement, disruptive behavior are not visible on the Profit and Loss Statement. 

No one tells CFO’s what you just learned in the bullet points above. No one shows them the tax untreated physician burnout is placing on the Profit and Loss statement.

What they do pound the table for is cost cutting, higher patient flow and increased efficiency - all of which typically increase physician burnout.  The CEO is leaning over their shoulder and that is the most obvious place to make improvements they can see.

Burnout is an elephant standing in the board room of every healthcare organization. Everyone does their best to ignore it. Most physicians and administrators have given up on things ever changing. It has gotten to the point where overwhelming workloads, barely manageable stress, compassion fatigue and turnover are considered normal for healthcare.

Your CFO needs to know this business case for physician well being ASAP 

We must teach them the pervasive negative impact of burnout because an enlightened CFO can be your biggest ally in this battle.

We have to show them the massive negative effect burnout has on your bottom line profitability. If they understood the benefits of happier, healthier doctors, they would be pounding the boardroom table for a physician burnout prevention committee with a sizable budget.


An enlightened CFO understands the impact of physician burnout. They pound the boardroom table for things like …

Funds for annual physician and staff stress and burnout surveys

Funds for a standing Physician Burnout Working Group charged to minimize the stress inherent in the business systems in any way necessary

Funds for improvement projects based on the survey results

Funds for onsite training in the tools to recognize and prevent burnout for doctors and all staff

They understand that happy doctors are the source of happy patients and quality care

They realize that taking great care of your workers has multiple benefits that drop immediately to the bottom line

AND they can show the CEO the importance of physician burnout prevention funding

In the next several years,organizations with this kind of enlightened CFO will develop a competitive advantage in their respective marketplace. The patients will want to be seen there and the doctors will want to work there. Their ship will float high in the water without all the bailing their competitors require just to stay afloat.


Does your CFO understand physician burnout?
What do they pound the table for in your organization?
Feel free to share this article with them and have them give me a call


Tags: physician burnout prevention, Dike Drummond MD, Physician Burnout