Psychiatrist, Advocate for Patient Care

Chapter 8: Data and Physician Burnout


The demand for data creates time pressures for physicians and increasingly contributes to physician burnout. Dr. Mark Linzer, a recognized expert on burnout, spoke about this at the Minnesota Academy of Medicine meeting on January 3, 2017. His answer? Employ a scribe
to accompany the physician to take notes on the doctor’s behalf.


Dr. Linzer explained the work of his team at the Hennepin County Medical Center to mitigate physician burnout. He cited a 2015 Mayo Clinic study – Physicians and Burnout: It’s Getting Worse.


Despite a nationwide shortage of physicians, burnout is both a symptom and a cause of the critical problem facing organizations wanting to retain and recruit physician employees as “providers” in health care organizations. There are narrowing employment options for doctors
outside of such large clinic systems because independent medical practices continue to be bought up at a record pace by hospital-clinic organizations.


Dr. Linzer offered a “demand-control model” for physician burnout in which generic physician stress (pressure on doctors) is counter-balanced by the doctors’ ability to have control of their work environments and the quality of supports which are in place to reduce stress.


From surveying the doctors at HCMC, Dr. Linzer identified two primary reasons for increasing burnout:

  1. Time pressure during patient encounters. The physician believed he or she did not enough quality clinical time with patients nor the flexibility to adjust his or her efforts to the patient’s needs.
  2. Inputting electronic health records (EHR). Data input, the physicians report, dominates physicians’ inpatient clinical encounters and distracts from his or her ability to do quality patient care.


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