RED HOT Contributors


Episode 41 – Turning Up the Heat on Physician Burnout


Experts estimate about 300 to 400 physicians in the U.S. take their lives every year.

Physician burnout is far more than an effect of workplace stress…it’s a public health issue that threatens the U.S. healthcare system – including patient safety, quality of care, and healthcare costs.

In 2011, the Mayo clinic found 45% of physicians reported effects of burnout. In 2015, that number shot up to 54%…and today…who knows?

In this episode, we’ve got two top experts on the cutting edge of research and management centered on physician burnout, Drs. Paul DeChant and Diane Shannon. Their book PREVENTING PHYSICIAN BURNOUT is an eye-opening and at times stunning revelation into a major problem existing in many hospital, health system, and physician offices.

In this episode, Dr. Steve jumps into physician burnout with IBM Deputy Health Chief Dr. Paul DeChant and Dr. Diane Shannon on subjects including :

  • The 3 Major Symptoms of Physician Burnout
  • Burnout’s Extensive and Expansive Effects Into Our Entire Health System
  • Erroneous assumptions – from physicians and executives
  • Burnout hits nurses heavy too!
  • The Toxicity of Today’s Care Deliver Workflows
  • The LEAN Environment – and Why Today’s Efforts Fall Short

Below are two short and engaging snippets from many…in this podcast show.

DR. STEVE: “Diane, look…I read the book cover to cover. One of the most surprising things to me, was how physician burnout trickles down. It trickles down to all levels of the organization and makes a big impact on our entire system.

This is something that sits really strong in your heart, and I’d like you to break it down further. How wide-ranging does physician burnout go?

DR. SHANNON: ” It trickles down, just like you said. If you think about the team working around a physician experiencing burnout, they are going to be affected by that. There is clear research that shows that burnout affects patient care – specifically with medical errors.

If you consider what it feels like to be speaking to a doctor carrying de-personalization [from burnout], that experience is just not going to be as good as it could and should be. When we ask ourselves what we want for ourselves and our loved ones as patients, we want a doctor that is going to be fully present, who is not experiencing exhaustion or inefficacy, but who is resilient and thriving – and able to make the healing connection with us. And burnout gets in the way of that.

And if you think of it on an organizational level, just the financial costs of burnout are staggering. Replacing, recruiting, and getting a new physician up-to-speed, when one has left the practice, it’s estimated that it could cost up to $500,000 and perhaps even higher.

DR. STEVE: “Man…that’s amazing….Paul, I want to shift to a thought I had, which stayed with me throughout reading your book.

Back in the 90’s when health systems were growing, we really started to see the business of healthcare providers. Health systems growing their geographic footprint and coverage, by acquiring so many doctors’ practice and those doctors that came along with them.

I just have this innate feeling that as these acquisitions were happening, then and now, that both sides often made assumptions. Almost like the business people at the health system felt that the physicians would fall in line, with what was and still often is top-down ‘Sloan’ style management; and physicians may have erroneously believed that they were still going to run their practice in the same way, and with the same position of power they always had.

Am I reading into this wrong…that both sides made erroneous assumptions?”

DR. DeCHANT: “No…your absolutely right Steve. From the executive side, managing physicians is a lot different from managing normal business people in an organization, and particularly in healthcare – where the organizations are so complex. So there are definite challenges there.

From the physician side, we spent much of our collective experience, up until the last ten years or so, without a lot of accountability for the way that we practice and for the outcomes that we achieve.”

DR. STEVE: “Right”

DR. DeCHANT: “And that’s changing, and that should change. A lot of it has happened concurrent to the time at which acquisitions were happening, and so we’re now seeing a big drive in this direction.”



 I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve Ambrose on a podcast that covered a range of topics in healthcare information technology. The podcast logistics – communications, interview questions, scheduling and production – were every well managed.
A great experience that I would do again in an instance.

Dr. John Glaser
SVP, Population Health at CERNER

Get Our Newsletter

 Receive podcast updates
Exclusive insights
Patient Engagement Tips from industry experts
We hate SPAM as much as you do and promise to keep your email address safe.
  • Subscribe to the Podcast