#8: How Health Tech Can (And Can’t) Help Solve Physician Burnout with Janae Sharp

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Janae Sharp began her career by getting a teaching degree and marrying a medical doctor. Soon she transitioned to working from home in online marketing.

Because of her family’s involvement in the medical world, she had a knack for understanding what health professionals needed.

But soon she came to experience other realities in the healthcare world: the realities of mental health and physician suicide loss. Her husband passed away, and to deal with her loss, she quit her job and spent the next few years working through the complicated process of grief.

As a physician suicide loss survivor, Janae is an advocate for the mental health of physicians. Her advocacy led her to found Sharp Index, a nonprofit dedicated to improving physician’s mental health.

Throughout her career in marketing and health IT, she has sought to make communication easier in tech production. Among her many other credentials, Janae serves on the Board of Utah HIMSS and Healthcare Analytics News.

Janae joined me on the podcast to discuss the role of physicians’ mental health in healthcare and the way health tech companies should interact with these realities.

janae sharp physician burnout

Why burnout happens

The problem of burnout is bigger than just one cause.

Physicians burn out because they’re overworked. They burn out because of the emotional strain - dealing with deaths and trauma (sometimes many times a day). And they burn out because of unmet expectations.

Physicians by and large are idealists. In her work, Janae sees that many chose the field of medicine, not for the money, but because they really wanted to help people. But healthcare doesn’t always meet those expectations. And physicians, in turn, become disillusioned.

While many physicians have a higher breaking point than others, they still have one. Everyone does. And, historically, the medical field hasn’t given them a framework to deal with the toll their job takes.

How to monitor mental health

From my research, 1 out of 3 physicians are struggling with mental health. But Janae says that 1 in 2 clinicians have signs of burnout. This is a real problem.

Janae’s nonprofit assists hospitals in monitoring the mental health of their physicians. She works with data looking for negative trends and the factors that cause difficulties for physicians.

The difficulty in helping clinicians with mental health is that so few realize they have a problem in the first place. For those who do recognize burnout, Sharp Index offers anonymous help. For those who don’t recognize they have a problem, Sharp helps them develop skills to deal with mental health challenges.

How it affects healthcare

Providers of all kinds are experiencing burnout, and this has a big impact on the health community. The trauma that many physicians face on a daily basis takes a toll over a long period of time. And different people respond to it in different ways.

But eventually physicians who are struggling simply cannot engage as well. They cannot provide the same level of care for their patients as when they’re able to use their full mental and emotional capacity.

How health tech marketing should approach the issue

Far too many health tech ventures use physician burnout as a ploy in marketing. They use it to push their own agenda instead of helping the people involved.

Be honest

Janae says it’s important to be super honest with yourself about how much impact you can really make in physician burnout. If you’re marketing your product like it’s the answer to the whole issue, you’re not being honest.

The problem is just too big to be solved by one health tech solution.

Seek to understand

That being said, health tech companies can help with the problem. I really believe this. But you need to get in the mind of those who are using your product to really help.

Let’s face it. Health tech companies view their product from a totally different lens than their users do.

Your users have a different value system than you. Take time to understand what really matters to clinicians facing burnout on a daily basis.

Evaluate what you can do

Curious if you’re really helping with the problem? Here are three questions to ask to honestly evaluate your marketing strategy when it comes to physician burnout.

  1. Does your product really solve the problem say you say it does?

  2. Are you being sensitive to your audience?

  3. Do you understand emotional and mental strain clinicians face?

Janae says to remember that while you can’t solve the whole problem at least you can solve part of the problem. Market your product based on what you really can do.

The takeaway

Take a step back from all the strategies and numbers and look at what physicians really are dealing with. Write down the emotional challenges facing the people who will be using your product.

Make space in yourself for empathy. These are real people facing real struggles. Can your product help with that? It probably can. But before you try to fix a problem, try to understand.

Must read book

Janae’s go to book when it comes to mental health in healthcare professionals is Why Physicians Die By Suicide by Michael Myers. When you read this book, you’ll realize why this issue is so complex. But in the process you will be so much closer to really understanding.

Unbroken Brain is another book Janae recommends. She’s found it to be especially helpful since so many physicians are at a higher risk for addiction.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Want to connect with Janae? Find her here:

Twitter - @coherancemed

Sharp Index


Join Janae in support of physicians who spend their lives helping others. Contact her at janae@healthcarescene.com for information about what you can do to help at Sharp Index.

Want to help financially? The current fundraiser supports a research project on the cost of physician burnout.

Like what you hear?

Please subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. I’d love it if you would leave a review as well! And of course, tell all your friends!

And, as always, if you need help with your marketing…

Let’s talk. You can book your free consulting session with me today.