The US Healthcare System is Built on the Backs of Burned Out Doctors **

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

And it just does not have to be this way.

63% of physicians are burned out in the latest survey. This is twice the historical background rate of burnout prior to the year 2000. 

It is a modern epidemic and a plague upon US healthcare. It should wake CEO's up in a cold sweat across the nation every night at 3 AM.

In this blog post ** let me show you:

  • How this happens

  • Two Alternate Realities for a Burnout-Free System
    > The Chip in the Butt
    > The Physician Wellness Dividend

  • A Way Forward whether you are a clinician, a leader or mix of the two

♦ Burnout-Proof Yourself  
 Burnout-Proof Your Organization

Everyone knows what burnout like this means to the patients and the doctors.

The negative effects of burnout on the performance of the physician have four decades of research proof.

Burnout causes lower quality care, more medical errors, less patient and staff satisfaction. Burnout destroys marriages and can even kill the physician via depression, drugs, alcohol and suicide.

Another massive physician shift since the year 2000 is the physician migration to employee status.

In 2017 the percentage of US doctors who were working for a healthcare delivery organization as an employee crossed the 50% threshold.

This year that number is 73% and 90% of recent residency/fellowship graduates will take an employee position here in 2023.

Is there a connection between employee status and physician burnout?

What do you think? [please leave a comment below]

Burned out doctors are the employee bricks holding up the "health"care system here in the USA.

There is no way for this "system" to exist if it weren't for doctors overextending themselves in unhealthy ways every day.

The employer is both pleased and fortunate that that doctors are all conditioned by their medical education to ignore burnout and have only vestigial personal and professional boundaries. 

The physician is the last person to recognize their own burnout - it is a blind spot installed by the two prime directives of medicine we all learned as good residents.
[ >The patient comes first <> Never show weakness<] 

  • The doctors just keep showing up, no matter what.
  • Their employer breathes a sigh of relief because they are in any-warm-body mode and even a burned out doctor will keep the wheels turning. 
  • And the downward spiral continues. 

The leaders are happy to use this physician burnout blind spot against them.

They push and bully and refuse to staff appropriately (both the doctors and the support staff), knowing the doctors will keep showing up. The doctors will complain, but will keep doing the work, sometimes meeting RVU quotas by doing charts at home after the kids are in bed.

All this allows the CEO to tell the board, he runs a tight ship. [full of burned out doctors!] 

Rinse and repeat.

The US Healthcare System is Built on the Backs of Burned Out Doctors
[and it does not have to be this way!]

Featured Download

Over 235 Ways to Stop Physician Burnout
The MATRIX 2.0 White Paper

CONSIDER a pair of alternate realities ...

Let's imagine ... a system designed to eliminate the possibility of a burned out physician coming into contact with patients today.

I have two options for you here:



OPTION ONE - the Chip in the Butt

ChipUpon contract signature, each doctor has a micro chip embedded in the buttock of their choice.

Using the latest photonic scanners and A.I. augmented analysis, it continuously measures serum cortisol, comparing the area under the curve of the individual physician with the proprietary Healthy Physician Normative Values scales (HPNV) - adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, specialty, FTE status and years in practice. 

Any time any chipped employee's curve exceeds normal for more than three consecutive days, the microchip sends a CODE ORANGE signal to the Quality Control department and shifts the doctor's function status to OFFLINE. 


  • Disables the doctor's ability to enter corporate facilities where patient care is delivered.

> The physician is texted with a request to report to HR/EAP immediately.
> Scanners at all entrances sound an alarm triggered by the physician's micro chip. > The entry gates lock and block the physician's access to all patient care facilities.
> If the physician ignores the alarm and enters the building, the chip's GPS is activated and Security Staff are alerted. The physician is physically escorted to HR.

  • Locks the doctor out of the EMR, InBox and all electronic communication channel

  • Notifies that physician's immediate supervisor and direct reports of their OFFLINE status 

  • Schedules a STAT appointment with the Employee Assistance Program intake staff

  • Reschedules the physician's patients for the next 72 hours

  • The physician remains OFFLINE for a minimum of 72 hours - this is termed a Active Status Break (ASB)

  • Physician resumes ACTIVE status when either cleared by HR as a false alarm or on completion of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) focused on improving self-care skills in three areas: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual. 

  • More than three ASB's in a 12 month span triggers an automatic 90-day Active Recuperation Absence (ARA) consisting of a complete pause in patient contact, mandatory recovery experiences (physical, emotional, spiritual) and active Burnout Proof Education. Restoration of patient care privileges depends on microchip readings in normal range and passage of Burnout Proof final exam.


Q What would happen to your organization if a system like this was in place?

      • 60% of your physicians would have their patients cancelled and be milling around in the HR waiting room ... what a nightmare! 

      • A significant number of them would probably quit and walk away. 

      • The EAP staff would be immediately and completely overwhelmed

And yet, we must do something to stop the toll the current burnout epidemic is taking on ...

      • the patients
      • the physicians and their families
      • the integrity of the care your organization provides


OPTION TWO - Build a Healthier Organization
and realize the triple competitive advantage of Physician Wellness

physician-leadership-activities-of-daily-leadership-adls-physician-burnoutWhat if these things were true for your organization? 

  • Physicians were trained to recognize and prevent burnout and to reach out to colleagues in distress?

  • They were empowered to build healthy boundaries between work and home and real life balance?

  • What if burnout is recognized as an occupational hazard for physicians and active measures were installed to check in with and actively support struggling doctors?

  • What if the managers practiced Servant Leadership, asking questions about what gets in the way of offering the best care to your patients, then removing those obstructions?

  • What if the systems of care and documentation were continuously examined and refined to eliminate waste and maximize the quality of care?

  • What if the culture of the organization was one of support, collaboration and teamwork?

  • What if communications were consistently open, honest, truthful and transparent and no one felt vulnerable speaking in this way up the chain of command?

  • What if there was true balance between the performance of the organization and the experience of the people who provide the care - both Margin and Mission?

  • What if the organization consistently and publicly made optimizing the health and wellbeing of the physicians and staff a top three priority and a pillar of their competitive strategy?

Would THAT GROUP have a 63% Burnout Rate?

Would the PERFORMANCE of THAT GROUP be better or worse than today's healthcare delivery systems?

♦ Burnout-Proof Yourself  
 Burnout-Proof Your Organization


Business as usual is not an option. US "Health"care is approaching the edge of the cliff. Business as usual will only reenact the Thelma and Louise final scene.

There are organizations - lots of them - who will crash and burn. You don't want to be associated with them.

If you still love seeing patients and making a difference ...
If you still enjoy leading teams of doctors and making a difference ...
It is time for active measures to take back your practice and take better care of your people. 

We believe ... that physician and staff wellness must be a top priority if your organization is to survive the coming meltdown. It will take an active, coordinated Wellness Strategy supported from top to bottom of the leadership structure to be successful. 

We believe ... individual physicians must take active measures to protect their health, happiness and ability to make a difference in their practice. Fill the hole in your medical education. Get the tools and support to become Burnout Proof and build your Ideal Practice.



Which would you rather have ...

  • A chip in the butt and a structure to take you off line in case of burnout?
  • An organization that cares about you and proves it?

And do you believe there is a connection between burnout rates and employee rates?

** #AIFreeZone
No augmented/artificial intelligence of any kind was used to generate a single word of this blog post

Tags: stop physician burnout