- Primary care doctors spend more than half their workday on EHR tasks, a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded.
- The researchers looked at EHR event logs of 142 family doctors in a southern Wisconsin health system and found the providers spent nearly two hours on EHR tasks for every hour of direct patient care. Overall, physicians spent 5.9 hours per weekday — 4.5 hours during clinic hours and 1.4 hours after hours — on EHR-related activities.
- The finding echoes other studies linking administrative tasks and EHR to physician burnout.
The study identifies 15 EHR task categories under three broad groups: clerical, medical care and inbox. Documentation, order entry, billing and coding and system security accounted for almost half of the total EHR time, while inbox management accounted for roughly a quarter, researchers from the University of Wisconsin and American Medical Association said.
They recommended using the proposed EHR task categories to assess individual performance and compare organizations. “Best practice should be identified from high-performing individuals, teams, and organizations, and used as a goal for other organizations to pursue, but in relationship to clinician and team satisfaction,” the study says.
Physician burnout is a serious problem, and one that is likely to get worse as provider groups commit to MACRA reporting by next month's deadline. Provider groups are looking to CMS for a reduced regulatory burden, but they can't count on any major changes to paperwork requirements.
A study last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine found physicians spend just under half their workday on EHR and administrative tasks and just 27% of their time meeting face-to-face with patients. Even in the exam room, doctors spent more than a third of the time inputting data.
To reduce burnout, many organizations are seeking add-ons to optimize their EHRs. In a survey commissioned by Nuance Communications and conducted by HIMSS Analytics, 68% of healthcare leaders said adopting new technologies would increase clinician satisfaction, while 75% planned to enhance existing technology. More than eight in 10 saw clinical training and education as a way to improve satisfaction.
There are steps physicians can take to reduce time spent with EHRs and to reclaim face time with patients. Ensuring clinicians are sufficiently trained on EHR use and practicing expected workflows will increase fluency and build confidence, Heather Haugen, managing director and CEO of The Breakaway Group, told Healthcare Dive in an interview last fall.
Other strategies include identifying needed process improvements, using templates and other shortcuts, documenting while with the patient and using live or virtual medical scribes.