Electronic Health Records Devouring Physicians' Time, Study Finds

The authors evaluated the time they spent on four activities (direct clinical face time, EHR and desk work, administrative tasks, and other tasks) and self-reported after-hours work. They concluded that the doctors spent 27.0 percent of their total time on direct clinical face time with patients and 49.2 percent of their time on EHR and desk work.

A new AMA-supported study found that physicians spend far more time working on electronic health records (EHRs) and desk work than they do meeting face to face with their patients. Published online Sept. 6 by Annals of Internal Medicine, the study, "Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties," involved observations of 57 U.S. physicians in family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, and orthopedics who were observed for a total of 430 hours, with 21 of them also completing after-hours diaries.

The authors evaluated the time they spent on four activities (direct clinical face time, EHR and desk work, administrative tasks, and other tasks) and self-reported after-hours work. They concluded that the doctors spent 27.0 percent of their total time on direct clinical face time with patients and 49.2 percent of their time on EHR and desk work.

They cautioned that their data "were gathered in self-selected, high-performing practices and may not be generalizable to other settings."

The authors are Christine Sinsky, M.D.; Lacey Colligan, M.D.; Ling Li, Ph.D.; Mirela Prgomet, Ph.D.; Sam Reynolds, MBA; Lindsey Goeders, MBA; Johanna Westbrook, Ph.D.; Michael Tutty, Ph.D.; and George Blike, M.D. of the American Medical Association; Sharp End Advisory; the Australian Institute of Health Innovation; and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

"I am not surprised to hear these results, and I can tell you no one who practices medicine today would be surprised by them,” said AMA Immediate-Past President Dr. Steven J. Stack, M.D., in an article on the study available on the AMA Wire. "But they highlight exactly why new technologies that can bring greater efficiencies to medicine are so important."

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