Physicians can have extremely heavy workloads, especially if employed at a busy practice. The last thing many want to do in the evening is catch up on paperwork, even though this is an inevitable part of the profession. However, a recent study looked into practice management and discovered that family physicians in particular are spending far too long handling electronic health record systems to track their workdays.
Published in the Annals of Family Medicine, the study titled "Tethered to the EHR: Primary Care Physician Workload Assessment Using EHR Event Log Data and Time-Motion Observations" examined 142 family medicine physicians in Wisconsin over the course of a three-year timeframe. The researchers found that this group spent approximately six hours of their workday using the EHR. After hours, study participants recorded spending 86 minutes with the system, working on a combination of inbox management and clerical and other administrative tasks, which also included including documentation, order entry, billing and coding.
Too much time is lost
Physicians should be able to focus more on patients, but there seem to be too few hours in the day to get all the paperwork and appointments handled. Another study published in the same journal recorded the amount of time physicians in ambulatory care spent working on EHR versus patient care. Participants were from a wider range of U.S. states, and were monitored for 430 hours. The researchers determined that for every hour of patient care, two hours were spent updating EHR information. In addition to this, the study added, a further one to two hours were spent at home or outside of traditional hours completing clerical work or other desk-based tasks.
It's all about delegation
Clearly, something needs to change when it comes to physician's EHR time. An article by the American Medical Association wire highlighted the fact that physicians need to delegate tasks to others, especially when it comes to EHR updates. Physicians can use event logs, according to the source, which can help highlight which kinds of tasks can be delegated to diminish physician workload. EHR use is leading to burnout amongst some physicians, due to the sheer amount of time many tasks take to complete. Some data entry takes longer than in the past because of new regulations and codes. However, the source added that physicians should be open to collaborating with their team and sharing some of the clerical duties to ease their workloads.
Improved communication can help a busy office function in a more efficient manner, and staff can subsequently feel like they are truly part of a team. If their willingness to support physician ERH work is voiced, this can mean that the work is distributed and no one shoulders the load.
Finally, according to the source, team-based care can include expanded rooming protocols, standing orders and panel management. Empowering staff to work together can hopefully prevent physician burnout and further ensure that patients are getting the attention they need and deserve.