Physician Burnout and COVID-19 - Let the Hamster Wheel Olympics Begin

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

fee-for-service-for-profit-usa-healthcare-opt-150WAnd get ready to run like never before 

If you haven't heard yet, your organization just had its worst three months in history -- yet another COVID-19 driven contribution to physician burnout.

i) If you are a practice owner, this reality has been keeping you up at night for weeks.

ii) If you are an employee physician and you don't already know about the smoking crater that is your organization's financial statement, your leaders are hiding the financials from you in a fine example of #badleadership.

iii) And if your organization somehow managed to avoid a massive loss in the last 90 days - either you are a full risk/capitated provider (Kaiser Permanente) or you got very, very lucky.

For healthcare delivery organizations relying on fee-for-service payment contracts, things have never been this bad.

Their profit margin just went from single digit positive to a giant sucking sound. Even the Mayo Clinic is projecting a 3 BILLION dollar loss in 2020.

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Now we have some potential GOOD NEWS !

Now we are seeing a little flicker of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. 

  • States are opening up - even if it makes no sense from a public health perspective, social distancing will soon be a thing of the past.
  • Our patients are starting to come back for both urgent and routine visits
  • Virtual medicine is able to shoulder some of the load
  • And maybe - just maybe - you are even billing a little more this week than last !?

You know what is coming next ... right? 

You are going to be asked to make up the losses of the last quarter by working harder than ever before to fill the coffers back up.

Here is the big danger.

physician-leadership-physician-burnout-covid19-healthcare-delivery-organizations-OPT-240WYour leaders may actually believe it is possible to return to profitability ... just by you working harder!

They may think you can actually spin that gerbil wheel fast enough to make up for the 60 - 70% drop in income in March, April and May. 

They may even "right size" the organization and take away your support staff to cut costs  AND STILL expect you to hit massively inflated production numbers.

Two Quick Stories:
One of our Lightworker Forum participants told a story last week of an administrator who visited their office and quickly admonished them to stop this "huddle nonsense" and get back to work. 

Another told of having had their MA taken away at the same time they are being asked to see more patients.

What should be happening?

In an ideal world your leaders would be:

  • Completely transparent about the financials.
  • Collaborative in planning how to address the losses - involving physicians and staff in designing strategy and work flows going forward.
  • Clear about productivity, income and profit goals - both for the organization and for you as an individual provider.
  • Giving you the resources and support staff you need to hit those targets.
  • Visibly rounding on and shadowing front line providers as a key component of their leadership skill set.

BTW, I only know of one healthcare organization leadership team that checks all of these boxes in the USA at this time.


Until your leadership team steps up to the plate in this fashion

Hamsters, step onto your wheels. Ready, set ... GO !




Has your leadership team been transparent about company financials?
Have they involved you in brainstorming ways to increase billings and profits?
Are you being asked to see more patients?
Are you being given the resources to get that done?




Tags: Physician Burnout, Physician Leadership