Clinicians are spending nearly two hours working on electronic health records (EHRs) for every hour they spend with a patient—a trend that may contribute to burnout, according to a new study.
Physicians in ambulatory care practices, such as GI, family medicine, cardiology, internal medicine and orthopedics, report spending an extra two hours of in-office time and an additional one to two hours of personal time recording patient encounters, assessing test results, ordering medications and providing referrals. The study was published in Annals of Internal Medicine (doi: 10.7326/M16-0961).
“Electronic health records, 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,” Susan Hingle, MD, professor of medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, wrote in a commentary accompanying the journal article.
According to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, physicians who use EHRs experienced low satisfaction with the amount of time spent doing clerical work and were at a higher risk for professional burnout (doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.05.007).
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation in Australia, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and healthcare consulting firm Sharp End Advisory in New Hampshire and the American Medical Association spent 430 hours observing 57 physicians practicing in Illinois, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington. They focused on how much in-office time the physicians spent seeing patients face-to-face and working through an electronic medical records system. In the exam room, physicians spent 53% of their time seeing patients and 37% on EHRs. For a whole office day, physicians spent 27% of their time with patients and 49% of time on EHRs.
In addition, 21 physicians reported through diaries that they spent one to two hours on EHRs after work hours.
Dr. Hingle noted that hiring more medical scribes or advanced care teams may help minimize the amount of time doctors are spending on EHR work.
“Now is the time to go beyond complaining about EHRs and other practice hassles and to make needed changes to the health care system that will redirect our focus from the computer screen to our patients and help us rediscover the joy of medicine,” she wrote.