How to Reduce Physician Burnout: Strategically Utilize Outside Expertise

Physician burnout is one of the most challenging issues in US and global healthcare. The recent COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this in new and worrying ways with additional pressure placed on already-stretched healthcare providers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 42% of Physicians have experienced symptoms of burnout, which is defined by the ICD-10 as ‘a state of vital exhaustion’.

Cost of Burnout

According to RelateCare Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jennifer Schmidt, “Studies continue to demonstrate a rising rate of physician burnout. Burnout decreases access to care as more physicians leave practice. It can also result in increased patient safety risks through physician depersonalization.  Additionally, physicians are spending less quality time with patients resulting lower physician and patient satisfaction.”

This is not to mention the financial implications of burnout on a national level, costing somewhere between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion per year (Estimating the Attributable Cost of Physician Burnout in the United States, Shasha Han, MS, Tait D. Shanafelt, MD, et. al, Annals of Internal Medicine).

Digital and technological interventions have long been championed as part of the solution to burnout. Leveraging efficiencies from EHR systems can reduce the administrative pressure on physicians and leave them to focus on what matters: the patient.

But when put into practice, has this been the case?

Pandemic Experience

The Covid-19 pandemic brought huge increases in telehealth usage across health systems, allowing care to be provided at a distance while people remained safely at home.

National data from EPIC shows messages from patients received per day is up 157% over pre-pandemic amounts through the end of 2020. Patients are provided a 24/7/365 access, but the support to service this model is not in place in many organizations.

Yet, due to poor patient communication strategy, misaligned operational models and staffing shortages, physicians found themselves in an unsustainable situation.

Administrative Pressure

In a recent survey, 60% of respondents stated that “too many bureaucratic tasks” is the main cause of burnout. Physicians are spending an inordinate amount of their time entering data into EHR systems, responding to patient queries in the patient portal, answering in-basket messages, etc. All of which increased during the pandemic.

Creating efficient systems redistributes administrative tasks away from physicians to clinical staff working at the top of their license, something that RelateCare clinical teams have been able to support and optimize. The downstream effects of these systems include, not only improved physician burnout, but also more timely management of patient questions, concerns and ultimately, better patient care and satisfaction of patients and providers alike.

Outside Expertise

While some clinics may have the resources and expertise to build successful, efficient systems, many do not. Finding a partner with expertise and experience in patient access and communication models can be of immense value.

RelateCare has been working with leading healthcare systems across the globe for over twelve years advising, guiding, and supporting providers so they can optimize the patient experience. RelateCare has guided healthcare systems in the creation of clinical systems including nurse triage, medication refill protocols, and in-basket and patient call management algorithms. Some of these systems are put in place utilizing healthcare system staffing while others are staffed and managed by Relate Care’s own Registered Nurses and agents or at times, a hybrid of both.

Consultancy Solution

RelateCare have a strong track record in supporting organizations to build internal successful Nurse Triage Programs. Utilizing nationally recognized, up-to-date protocols, RelateCare partners with clients to set-up programs. Starting with a current state assessment, RelateCare’s team identifies strengths and opportunities already present.

According to RelateCare Director of Clinical and Wellness, Kari Kontz, “Our RelateCare consultants work with the physician champion and clinical leadership to build programs that address the specific needs of each clinic, while standardizing workflows for efficiency and improvements. Once implemented, RelateCare provides ‘at the elbow support’ to the organization, with clear quality metrics and near real-time trouble shooting to quickly address issues as they arise.”

Staffing Shortage

However, especially now, recruiting quality nurses, medical assistants, and other personnel is challenging, and that is also where RelateCare can help assist with staff turnover.

In addition to its consultancy, RelateCare provides staffing opportunities, both Registered Nurses as well as Patient Service Representatives. The RelateCare staff operate out of best-in-class contact centers.

While the staff are located remotely, RelateCare ensures seamless integration for the patient experience, while also enhancing it. They are experienced working across a range of electronic health records and systems, becoming a virtual extension of the provider.

Dr. Schmidt continued, “Utilizing an outside expert allows physicians and clinical staff to spend more time with their patients leading to safer patient care and all-around provider satisfaction. Additionally, well-run efficient clinical systems enhance value for the organization through improved physician retention, improved access to care and higher quality care.”


Physician burnout is a real and pressing problem exacerbated by increasing patient communications through the electronic portal during the Covid-19 pandemic. Efficient clinical system design and utilization can optimize physician time and improve their satisfaction. Working with RelateCare, a trusted experienced partner in both consultancy and staffing can mitigate the impact of physician burnout and lead to healthier, more patient-focused physicians.

If you would like to find out more about RelateCare’s consultancy and outsourcing solutions and how they can help you, please get in touch with us at