More than one-quarter of physicians surveyed said they fall behind their appointment schedule every day, and another 36% said it happens several times a week, according to the new Medscape Practice Workflow Report 2017: Physicians' Bottlenecks, Challenges, and Time.
Though they are falling behind, most of the nearly 1,200 physicians in more than 25 specialties surveyed weren't that far behind — either 15 minutes or less (37%) or 16 to 30 minutes (45%).
Despite falling behind, most physicians said they are either very satisfied (15%) or somewhat satisfied (40%) with their office’s overall efficiency.
Many physicians report feeling burnt out as regulatory and administrative burdens take up more of their day, and restricts time spent directly with patients.
More than half of U.S. physicians reported feeling overworked in a study last year published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Christine Sinsky, vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association and lead author of the study, told Healthcare Dive at the time physician burnout is a “public health crisis.”
In the Medscape study 79% of physicians said they fell behind mostly because a patient requires more time than allotted. Another issue, which 66% of respondents cited, is patients showing up late to appointments because they don’t have enough time to complete necessary forms. Nearly half said they fall behind because they’re recording patient notes between appointments.
Common reasons cited for physician stress are EHRs and technology. A recent Annals of Family Medicine study found that primary care doctors spend more than half their workday on EHR tasks. Doctors in that study reported spending nearly two hours on EHR tasks for every hour on direct patient care. Another study, which was published in Health Affairs earlier this year, found doctors spend half of their time on computer tasks.
That doesn't mean, though, that physicians are giving up on technological ways to improve their workflow. The doctors surveyed in the Medscape study said technology improvements are the top way to improve practice efficiency (43%). That was more than hiring either nonphysician clinical staff or physicians. Physicians also acknowledged that EHRs can be a headache. Nearly half of respondents said they are either frequently frustrated or occasionally bothered by EHRs.