Work Together to Reduce Physician Burnout

I’m pretty sure many of you are getting ominous mail from AARP, Inc. (or the artist formerly known as Prince…oops, I mean, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons):

“Our records show that you haven’t yet registered for the valuable benefits of AARP membership, even though you are fully eligible because you are a geezer. Don’t make us come out there and pop your kneecaps. We may be old, but we are wiry.

Please return the enclosed form with your payment of 1 million dollars to receive your membership kit and your complimentary gift, like the handsome work of art pictured below:

Potato #345 by Irish artist Kevin Abosch
Potato #345 by Irish artist Kevin Abosch

As little as 500 million dollars a year gives you access to this wonderful picture of a potato which recently sold for $1.08 million dollars to Donald Trump, over Bernie Sanders’ hand-written objection in which he mentioned that ‘This is exactly the kind of shenanigans I would expect from the top 1% of our country’s wealthy population; down with money!’

We are not amused by your own feeble efforts to profit by copying our initiatives. Stop now and we’ll go easy on you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

hillary-clinton-aliens-600x315We have available for you a wide variety of complimentary gifts, including a handy tote bag. Hillary Clinton used hers to collect UFO artifacts from Area 51. Don’t forget her commitment to settling the real alien question, which is finding out what planet the Ancient Alien Hair Dude is really from.Hair Guy ancient-aliens


We are waiting for your cash so that we can welcome you and yours to AARP. Don’t make us come over there.

Sincerely yours,

Bubba from AARP”

These letters aren’t the only reminder of retirement for me and other physicians. Physician burnout is rising everywhere and the latest figures in Iowa reveal that about 48% of doctors in the state have at least some level of burnout.

Among the most pressing problems contributing to burnout are:

  • Time spent on electronic medical records
  • Burdensome federal and/or state regulation
  • Burdensome insurance company requirements/paperwork
  • Decreasing reimbursement for services
  • Low Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement

I know a little something about burnout. Dr. George Dawson’s post on the solution to burnout summarized what the trainees and I talked about the other day. Burnout can be related to the driven personalities of doctors but that’s not all. One of the most important pressures leading to burnout is the perception by physicians of having a lot of responsibilities but almost no power–over our schedules, regulations, and paperwork, especially busywork like Maintenance of Certification (MOC). If there is one item that could be changed so young doctors in training might be less troubled by burnout, it’s getting rid of MOC. 

The Michigan MOC saga is one of the sadder examples because, in spite of the Michigan Medical Society adopting one of the most progressive resolutions opposing MOC (similar to resolutions I have proposed in Iowa and which have been adopted through the Iowa Medical Society, indicating MOC should not be tied to obtaining or renewing medical licensure, getting hospital privileging, or third party payer reimubursement), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan requires doctors there to participate in MOC. At least physicians in Michigan are in there pitching with the Right2Care initiative:

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has got it wrong and so do the specialty certification boards including the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). I’m not going to retire early. But I’m working on our retirement transition now. I’m increasingly eager for change.Sena and Jim