How Digital Strategy Can Help Prevent Physician Burnout

Published On: February 18th, 20226 min read

It’s no wonder that physicians are getting burnt out at increasingly higher rates. They work long hours and often feel inundated by paperwork and bureaucracy. Much of the technology they interact with on the day-to-day is brittle, outdated or not user-friendly while employers and patients alike try to squeeze more out of them every day.

These pressures take an emotional toll; nearly one-half of female physicians and two-thirds of their male counterparts reported feeling burned out, according to a recent Medscape survey. And patients bear the brunt; burnout was associated with a two-fold increase in the likelihood of unsafe care, unprofessional behaviors and low patient satisfaction, JAMA Internal Medicine reported in a meta-analysis of 47 studies involving 42,473 physicians. 

At DMI, we leverage technology to help healthcare providers overcome hurdles related to attraction, recruitment, retention and well-being.

Attraction & Recruitment

Medical providers must be proactive about attracting strong candidates from medical schools and competing companies. Two data points underscore the scope of the challenge:

The U.S. will have a physician shortage of 140,000 by 2030, according to a study in the journal Human Resources for Health.

One-third of all currently active doctors will be older than 65 in the coming decade, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Those retirements loom large in the widening shortage of physicians in the 2020s.

The key to increasing physician recruitment is treating it like a sales process. Top candidates receive offers from many different providers and organizations, so it’s important to demonstrate what value you can offer to them. This can come in the form of:

  • Creating personas and candidate journeys that identify optimal talent and map out every step of the recruitment process, from posting jobs online to tracking the search process with backend IT systems.
  • Developing a high-touch strategy that gets candidates engaged with your company and keeps them engaged all the way through to hiring and onboarding. 
  • Integrating data-driven technologies like customer relationship management (CRM) software to automate, standardize and streamline recruitment.
  • Crafting branding and messaging that captures the essence of what your company stands for.


Once you’ve secured good candidates to fill positions, you must consider how to keep them productive and satisfied. Remember: not every doctor is the same. For example, burnout may have a different root cause for a technology-savvy 30-year-old versus a 55-year old physician who is more resistant to learning new tech. 

DMI’s medical technology practitioners have noted three categories of obstacles to retention and burnout prevention:

  1. Paperwork & Bureaucracy

More than half of the physicians Medscape surveyed said “too many bureaucratic tasks (charting, paperwork, etc.)” contributed to their sense of burnout. And it’s not just the mundane repetitive drudgery — it’s the difficulties and delays in joining an insurance company’s network. 

“It can take upwards of 60 days to onboard a new physician with an insurance plan,” Andy Brockett, Senior Director for Healthcare and Life Science in DMI’s Digital Technology Office, says. 

To put that in perspective, a medical practice could hire three doctors, but those hires wouldn’t be able to see new patients for nearly two months. These administrative bottlenecks displease doctors and patients alike. 

      2.  Computerization & App Sprawl

Computers, applications and electronic medical records are designed to help doctors. But that’s not how things have turned out. 

“A physician might have 15 different systems to input information, create charts and get their notes transcribed,” Brockett says. This lack of optimization not only impedes productivity, but it can also increase technical debt

Likewise, data and documents that are easy to share within a medical provider group are often incompatible with systems used by external providers. That complicates bringing in specialists and coordinating care, especially in complex cases. 

“Physicians are losing control of the flow of information, so they’re not seeing the benefits of computerization,” Brockett adds. “In fact, it’s a hindrance to what they’re doing.” It doesn’t help that larger medical groups may have dozens of applications serving different needs and groups.

    3. Consumerization & Patient Demands

Patients tracking their steps and heart rate on smartwatches are just one manifestation of the consumerization of healthcare. Another example is the feedback mechanisms built into online medical platforms that let patients ask questions and provide feedback. While beneficial in some ways, these features can also add unnecessary, menial tasks to a doctor’s workday. 

Scheduling conflicts add even more complexity. Doctors often prefer standard 8-to-5 schedules. Patients, however, may want to see doctors before or after their regular working hours. Doctors can’t always give flexibility outside a patient’s work hours without running the risk of becoming burnt out. 

DMI’s Andy Brockett, an expert on medical practice solutions, recommends a three-pronged digital strategy to ease physician stress, reduce burnout and increase retention. 

    4.  App Rationalization & Simplification

Medical practices should inventory every application in their IT environment, scanning for sensible ways to shrink their app portfolio and simplify the physician’s user experience. 

“Break it down into silos from the patient’s and the doctor’s perspective,” Brockett advises. Make sure the remaining apps contribute to faster, more fluid interactions between physicians and patients.

    5.  Data Sharing & Telehealth

Data and documents like X-rays and charts must have more interoperability across IT systems and provider networks. Doctors need more remote-care options like telehealth to find common ground with patients who have complex scheduling challenges. 

“Telehealth lets doctors engage with patients wherever they’re at, in the fashion they want, with accurate data to manage their health,” Brockett says. As a result, it can relax the physician’s workload without inconveniencing the patient.

     6.  Automation & Intelligence

Image-analysis algorithms are helping doctors scan X-rays more accurately. Similarly, next-generation technologies like natural language processing and intelligent process automation can leverage machine language and voice interfaces to streamline patient service and speed up repetitive tasks like dictation and data entry.


The challenge for medical provider companies is straightforward. “If you do not account for your physicians’ well-being, somebody else will,” Brockett says. 

Whether you lose a doctor to retirement, competition or burnout, you’re giving up access to the knowledge and skills that keep patients coming back. 

At DMI, we specialize in designing user-centered IT systems that help our clients cement the digital-physical connection to the people they serve. Our experts in UX design, mobile app development and system architecture join forces with business analysts to comb the depths of challenges confronting doctors, patients and medical providers. 

That’s the kind of knowledge and experience it takes to improve the working lives of physicians, which leads to better health for everyone.

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