Posted in EHRs

Doctors spend more time on EHRs than interacting with patients, study shows

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
Doctors spend more time on EHRs than interacting with patients, study shows

Yet another study slams home a sobering point about health caregivers and electronic health records (EHRs): Primary care providers are spending more time entering and staring at EHR data than interacting with patients in their presence.

Results of the observational study of nearly 1,000 physician-patient encounters were published in Family Medicine and show that during an average patient visit, providers spent 18.6 minutes entering or reviewing EHR data on digital devices, and only 16.5 minutes of face-to-face time with patients.

“We found that family physicians spent more time in direct ambulatory patient care working in the EHR than they spent in face-to-face time with their patients,” researchers wrote. “The majority of family physicians worked through lunch, stayed late at clinic, or took their work home to complete the day’s EHR work.”

The study was conducted in Texas healthcare facilities by a team from the JPS Family Medicine Residency Program in Fort Worth, the University of Texas Heath Science Center at San Antonio, and the Baylor Scott and White Clinic in Temple, Texas. 

The results mirror other recent research indicating that the excessive amount of time spent on EHRs and working from home is contributing to physician burnout. A study by the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association (AMA) published last September showed that during a typical 11.4-hour workday, primary care physicians spent an average of 5.9 hours on data entry and other tasks with electronic health records (EHR) systems during and after clinical hours.

“U.S. physicians spend numerous hours daily interacting with EHR systems, contributing to work-life imbalance, dissatisfaction, high rates of attrition, and burnout rates exceeding 50 percent,” that study concluded.

Following the publication of its joint research with the University of Wisconsin, the AMA recommended “an overhaul of EHR systems” in order to 1) make actionable data for patient care more accessible 2) streamline convoluted workflows to allow providers more time with patients, and 3) reduce the workdays of providers by making it simpler to meet quality reporting and documentation requirements.

Another joint study by the AMA and Mayo Clinic, published last November, concluded that technological and bureaucratic burnout were driving physicians from clinical and even out of the medical profession.

While the burdens of working with EHRs are making it difficult for healthcare providers to focus on patients, it’s clear that going back to paper-based records is not feasible. Connected care requires electronic data exchange. Potential solutions include voice-activated assistants, artificial intelligence, and automation.