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Electronic Health Records May Be Getting More Time With Doctors Than Patients

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at about 100 million patient visits to 155,000 U.S. physicians and found they spend an average of 16 minutes and 14 seconds per patient encounter using EHRs, with chart review (33%), documentation (24%) and ordering (17%) accounting for most of the time.

The Doctors in the study were all in non-surgical specialties, such as internal medicine, cardiology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation, and based at 417 different health systems throughout the U.S.

The analysis studied active time on the EHR which means they were actively moving around the mouse and typing on the keyboard and not just logged on to the patient’s medical record. This means the study only offers the quantity of time spent on the EHR and not the quality.

It didn’t specify how much of that time was quality time versus wasteful time clicking around the EHR. That time could be passed off to other people such as medical scribes, assistants, or administrators.

A Doctor who is not as quick at navigating through the EHR or has more complex patients, more challenging insurance situations, or more demanding administrators could be spending more time.

It seems that many doctor are frustrated with EHRs and that it contributes to the high Physician burnout rates. Many feel that EHRs are not user friendly and having to be trained in order to use them, defeats its purpose.

David O. Barbe, M.D., the AMA’s president, said in an announcement, “Poorly designed and implemented EHRs have physicians suffering from a growing sense that they are neglecting their patients and working more outside of clinic hours as they try to keep up with an overload of type-and-click tasks.”

Companies are using methods to reduce the documentation burden and the government is adopting policies to address the amount of data it requires so there is hope to reduce the time and improve the value of EHRs.

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