How Much Time are Physicians Spending on EHR?
Too Much Time Charting Leaves Not Enough Time for Chatting with Patients
No one likes it, and most of us complain about it, but just how much time are we spending doing it? Charting? The answer to this question may surprise you. A recent research article was published that looked at how many hours primary care physicians spend each day in electronic health records (EHR).1 The conclusion: TOO MANY HOURS! The study showed that roughly half of a primary care physician’s day is spent interacting with EHR, both during and after clinic hours.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
The data was based on EHR event logs, and found that physicians spent 355 minutes (almost 6 hours) of an 11.4 hour workday in EHR. This was broken down to about 4.5 hours during clinic hours, and 1.4 hours after clinic hours. Wow! If that’s not enough to want to throw your computer out of a window, the details certainly will. Of that 6 hours in the EHR, almost half (44%) was spent performing clerical tasks and an additional quarter in email. This did differ by time of day and weekdays versus weekends.
EHR and Physician Burnout
The study explains that EHR is a significant factor of physician burnout. The frustration around the required time for documentation, and order entry, are huge time factors that give minimal satisfaction. In addition, EHR promotes an inefficient and distracting communication interface that advocates digital communication instead of face to face verbal interaction.
Question of the Future: “How can EHR work for us, instead of us working for the EHR?”
The message from the authors of this article was that solutions to common problems linked to physician burnout in primary care, such as proactive planned care, team-based care, and the sharing of clerical tasks, all require better thought out EHR system applications. Perhaps the question we will be asking in the future is “how can EHR work for us, instead of us working for the EHR?”
- Arndt BG, Beasley JW, Watkinson MD, et al. Tethered to the EHR: Primary Care Physician Workload Assessment Using EHR Event Log Data and Time-Motion Observations. Ann Fam Med. 2017;15(5):419-426.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.