How secure clinical communications can reduce physician burnout

clinical communications


On a typical chaotic hospital floor, the steady cacophony is deafening. Landlines ring. Overhead paging systems blurt out instructions. Physicians are using their pagers to arrange consults. A nurse is yelling out updates to the coverage schedule. Physician are on the phone discussing a patient’s treatment options. And in the midst of all this noise, physicians are attempting to provide their patients with high quality care.

This level of noise glosses over the underlying problems that are present in the hospital wing. Indeed, physicians have numerous demands on their time and senses. However, with all the noise, doctors inevitably become burdened by and experience uncoordinated communications and information overload.  The technologies and processes underlying this chaos are vying for the typical practitioner’s senses and often leave them feeling burned out.

Today, practitioners are experiencing burnout at a rate of 48% and nurses at 40%, which are rates far above the average American worker.   Moreover, these statistics represent a nearly seven percent increase in physician burnout rates since 2013. Hospitals must work to address these issues such as inefficient communications and information overload. The goal of this blog is to further look at:

  • Causes of burnout
  • Solutions to burnout

Through this analysis, we will come to an understanding of how to improve physicians’ chances of improving communications and minimizing burnout.

Multiple Causes of Burnout by Uncoordinated Communications looms large

Chronic exposure to the noise described above leads to significant stress in the physician community. Indeed the noise and inability to spend quality time with patients are some of the major causes of burnout. There are however additional factors contributing to the rise in physician burnout — everything from insufficient income due to reimbursement cuts to doctors spending too much time at work. However, when one looks closely at the available data, one can’t help but recognize what this lack of efficiency has had on a physician’s ability to work effectively and achieve their goal of improved patient outcomes.

Fragmented communications across the continuum of care and among care teams is a major contributor to stress among physicians. A typical scenario of how this plays out is that physicians and nurses constantly leave messages for one another as it is rare to connect on the first attempt. This “message and wait” pattern inevitably becomes stressful, especially if a physician or nurse needs to immediately reach a colleague.  Practitioners want to reach their colleagues so they can proceed with a patient’s care or care coordination. However, the inability to seamlessly interact with colleagues creates inevitable barriers to care and care coordination.


Effective strategies for managing physician burnout need to take into account some of the causes of the noise and cacophony impacting physicians’ wellbeing. An appropriate level of mindfulness will also have a significant role in minimizing physician burnout.


  • Streamline communications

By mapping the gaps in communication processes between physicians, nurses and other care team members, smartphone apps have the ability to reduce a 30-minute wait to a near instant transaction. For care groups, this means that they will experience streamlined communications and have fool-proof ways or reaching one another.

  • Mindful communications

Effective strategies for managing physician burnout includes mindfulness and stress-management training, according to a The Lancet. Placing a premium on physicians’ time is a significant part of increased mindfulness.

By limit communications when doctors are offsite to only necessary messages, and taking advantage of digital tools (such as secure text messaging systems) to get in touch with doctors at their convenience, hospitals can go a long way towards respecting doctors’ contributions to the hospital and respecting their time. Additionally, it is important to select technologies that are user-friendly for physicians and don’t add unnecessary administrative burdens.

  • Encourage team communications

By engaging the entire care team when making decisions, individual physicians can feel less burden for maintaining the overall patient’s care. The physician will feel less stressed because they know that the patient’s numerous specialists have also bought into the care decision. It’s critical to understand how the entire clinical care team, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, works together to influence care decisions for patients. By having an easy way for care teams to communicate, this care goal is facilitated.

OnPage can help

The causes and results of physician burnout have been well documented in this report. Physicians burnout is due to excessive stress and is often the result of poor communications mechanisms and workflows. As noted, poor communications can lead to poor patient care which can result in consequences that range from irritating to disastrous.

However, when physicians have access to improved communications methods such as the powerful and robust clinical communications platform provided by companies like OnPage, they can improve patient care and decrease their own mental health burden.

Learn more about the benefits of clinical communications when you download our whitepaper, Better Clinical Communications, Better Patient Outcomes