News Feature | September 15, 2016

EHRs Eat Up Docs' Time

Source: Elsevier
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, physicians spend nearly two hours a day on EHR and desk work during office hours.

Doctors spend two hours a day working on EHRs according to a group of trained observers. Researchers studied doctors of family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, and orthopedics to see how they spent their time. According to the results, time was divided into four areas; direct clinical face time, electronic health record [EHR] and desk work, administrative tasks, and other tasks.

“(Lead researcher Christine) Sinsky and colleagues confirm what many practicing physicians have claimed: EHRs, in their current state, occupy a lot of physicians’ time and draw attention away from their direct interactions with patients and from their personal lives,” writes Susan Hingle, a professor of internal medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in an accompanying editorial.

Researchers noted during the office day, physicians spent:

  • 27.0 percent of their total time on direct clinical face time with patients
  • 49.2 percent of their time on EHR and desk work

While in the examination room with patients, physicians spent:

  • 52.9 percent of the time on direct clinical face time
  • 37.0 percent on EHR and desk work

Of physicians who completed after-hours diaries, on average they reported 1 to 2 hours of after-hours work each night, devoted mostly to EHR tasks.

“This study reveals what many physicians are feeling — data entry and administrative tasks are cutting into the doctor-patient time that is central to medicine and a primary reason many of us became physicians,” said AMA Immediate Past President Steven J. Stack., M.D in a press release. “Unfortunately, these demands are not being reconciled with patient priorities and clinical workflow. Clerical tasks and poorly-designed EHRs have physicians suffering from a growing sense that they are neglecting their patients as they try to keep up with an overload of type-and-click tasks.”

“I am not surprised to hear these results, and I can tell you no one who practices medicine today would be surprised by them,” Dr. Stack said. “But they highlight exactly why new technologies that can bring greater efficiencies to medicine are so important, and why physicians have an important role to play in their development.”