Beast of burden: Study finds EHR tasks take too much time

Dive Brief:

  • Physicians spend just under one-half (49.2%) of their work day on electronic health record (EHR) and administrative tasks, and just 27% of their time on clinical face time with patients, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
  • Even in the examination room, 37% of the physicians' time is spent on EHR and administrative tasks, compared to a little more than one-half of their time (52.9%) spent on direct clinical face time, findings show. 
  • The study lends credence to critics who say EHRs need to be reconfigured to benefit physicians and patients, the American Medical Association argued in a prepared statement. The AMA was the primary source of the study's funding.

Dive Insight:

Time spent on EHR and administrative tasks could be leading to physician burnout. A lifestyle report Medscape released earlier this year showed the number of physicians reporting burnout increased from 45.5% in 2011 to 54.4% in 2014 and the main cause was too many administrative tasks. Also, more than half of surveyed physicians in a recent American Partners survey reported their EHR was difficult or very difficult to use.

In the new AMA-sponsored study, 57 physicians in family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, and orthopedics located at Illinois, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington were observed for a total of 430 hours. "For every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly 2 additional hours is spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day," the study authors concluded. 

Dr. Jonathan Bush, founder and CEO of athenahealth, put the blame on government regulations in an editorial for STAT. Financial incentives are motivating physicians to neglect their own needs, as well as the needs of their patients, Bush wrote. Offering these financial incentives can be effective in encouraging better quality of care. But EHRs' lack of usability and the increasing amount of administrative tasks physicians are required to do to meet federal requirements, such as the reporting of quality measures, may be challenging how influential they are.

Filed Under: Health IT
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