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Primary care physicians spend more than half of their workdays in front of computer screens, reducing the amount of time they spend with patients, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association (AMA).
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, researchers found.
“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,” the study concluded.
The AMA long has been vocal about the growing burdens placed on physicians to digitally document patient data and meet requirements for quality reporting. The trade group called for “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.
“This study reveals what many primary care physicians already know – data entry tasks associated with EHR systems are significantly cutting into available time for physicians to engage with patients,” AMA President David O. Barbe said in a statement. “Unfortunately, clerical and administrative demands are not being reconciled with patient priorities and clinical workflow. 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.”
Researchers used EHR event logs to identify areas of EHR-related work that could be delegated to reduce workload, improve professional satisfaction, and decrease burnout. The study was published Monday in the Annals of Family Medicine.