How to beat bureaucracy-induced burnout

The frustration is real. For many dermatologists, regulatory red tape is the line in the sand. And an equal number of physicians are unwilling to cross it.

Mark D. Kaufmann, MD

Mark D. Kaufmann, MD, chief medical officer for The Dermatology Group and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, identifies the regulatory, social, and professional forces leading to feelings of frustration, dejection, and hopelessness among dermatologists during Friday’s “Bureaucracy, Compliance, and Burnout: What it Means to Dermatologists.”

Autonomy, authority, and “burdens”

“We have two global problems. One is the loss of autonomy and the other is the loss of authority,” Dr. Kaufmann said. “The government is hitting us with regulatory programs, all the acronyms that dermatologists have learned to hate (EHR, HIPAA, etc.). Government has taken the fun out of practicing medicine. That’s a heavy burden on physicians today and explains why some physicians are considering early retirement.”

As part of the audience-focused symposium, experts will join Dr. Kaufmann to discuss a wide range of factors leading to frustration, anxiety, and dissatisfaction for dermatologists, including the impact of government bureaucracy, social media, non-dermatologist encroachment, and false advertising. These “burdens,” as Dr. Kaufmann calls them, take away from patient care.

“The prescription pad has become a suggestion pad. Today, all the regulatory hurdles in front of dermatologists have stripped away their authority,” Dr. Kaufmann said. “We’re supposed to follow the word of pharmacists and insurance payers. These are people with a fraction of the knowledge we, as physicians, have. Physicians feel frustrated and helpless.”

Creating solutions

It’s important to formulate strategies for lifelong success and happiness before bureaucracy and burnout take hold, Dr. Kaufmann said. One solution has been to parcel out non-patient care tasks to a third party. That can occur by either selling your practice or maintaining ownership in your practice and outsourcing certain business functions to a management service organization (MSO). Another solution, he says, is to pool your business resources with other practices to share in the day-to-day work of running a practice.

It can be a tough choice for dermatologists, Dr. Kaufmann said. He describes dermatology as the “last hold out for the ‘mom and pop shop’ model.” While some dermatologists may fear selling their practice to a private equity group or contracting with an MSO, some physicians feel relieved to get back to practicing medicine. And that positively impacts patient care.

“There’s a portion of physicians who are burned out and patients are at risk when physicians feel that way. They may feel as if they are getting the short end of the stick and not getting 110%,” he said. “It’s important to identify if  you’re burned out. From my own personal experience, now that I’ve unloaded my burdens of the business portion of my practice life, I feel much less burned out and much better.”

Dr. Kaufmann predicts the “mom and pop” model of dermatology will continue to transform into larger systems.

“Find a system you are comfortable in, minimize your non-clinical duties, and you will become happy again,” he said.

“Bureaucracy, Compliance, and Burnout: What it Means to Dermatologists” (S015)
Friday, 1-4 p.m.
Room 140A