Digital Health: Stop Frying Doctors

Digital Health: Stop Frying Doctors

A recent survey showed that doctors are burning out in big numbers, but that some specialties are worse than others. The survey asked about the prevalence of burnout factors and how they affect physicians’ lives. Overall, 42 percent of respondents were burned out—down from 51 percent last year—and 15 percent admitted to experiencing either clinical or colloquial forms of depression.

More than half of physicians chose “too many bureaucratic tasks” as the leading cause of burnout. However, physicians also designated spending too many hours at work, lack of respect, increased computerization of practice and insufficient compensation as top causes of burnout.

When will big digital get the message that their products and services are frying doctors? Welcome to the Cooked But Not Done Club. They are ignoring the 4th part of the quadruple aim-improving the doctor experience and bringing back the joy of work- at great risk. More and more, doctors are just saying, "Take this white coat and shove it".

So, what should digital health entrepreneurs and other members of the digital health ecosystems do?

  1. Stop piling on "solutions" that interfere with workflow
  2. Get physician and end user input early in the product development cycle
  3. Educate doctors interested in working on digital health design, testing and deployment about not just the clinical, but the business side so they can add value. Educate non-sick care entrepreneurs about how sick care workflow and the value chain really works on the ground.
  4. Measure the scalable impact of new products by how it helps doctors spend more time seeing patients with less administrivia
  5. Stop ignoring the impact of technologies on doctors at pitch fests, accelerators and presentations
  6. Doctors need to show up and be part of the solution instead of complaining victims
  7. Remove the barriers to physician participation in product development and accelerators.
  8. Go to where doctors work and observe how they work. Expecting them to come to a Meetup at an inconvenient location and time where you can't park does not work. Create Day in the Life Days. Remember Bring Your Daughter and Son to Work Days? It's time to Bring Your Digital Health Cofounder to Work Day.
  9. Focus on the doctor experience as much, if not more, than you are on the patient experience. Happy doctors make happy patients.
  10. Fix things in your healthIT shop that are toasting the staff. Maybe you need to hire a Chief Physician Experience Officer.
  11. Figure out how your product fits into the future of sick care work.

Everyone in digital health wants to "launch their rocket". Just be sure you haven't fried health professionals in the wake of your exhaust doing it.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

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  • Jack Hayley

    I'm am a medical school student. I really wish I hadn't read this. Although it is so true.

  • Ricardo Ortiz

    Really interesting topic

  • Pauline Stephen

    The extreme amount of education and training one does in order to finally become a physician is a testament to how much lifelong dedication and discipline the job requires.

  • John Roberts

    Good article

  • Kevin Challinor

    It's not easy, damn near impossible; but being a good doctor also means relinquishing your visceral drive to be the center of all your thoughts and actions.

  • Paul Colman

    Anyone getting into medicine should fully understand that they are taking on the role of the ultimate caregiver. The work will be monotonous, never ending, chaotic, and most of all thankless and one has to be 100% completely okay with this and at the end of the day shouldn't expect a pat on the back or validation from anyone but pride themselves day in and day out knowing the work they do changes & ultimately saves lives all over the world.

  • Jennifer Ocarina

    Spiritual health is necessary to achieve a peaceful life. doctors need to understand that there is Jesus Christ. Go to a church. Understand that there is help. One prayer away.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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