For every hour physicians spend face-to-face with patients, they spend two more hours at the end of every day documenting what they discussed into the electronic health record, according to a time and motion study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. And researchers suggest the documentation workload might be adding to physician burnout.
“Time spent in meaningful interactions with patients is a powerful driver of physician career satisfaction, but increased paperwork and time on the computer mean less time for direct patient care,” the researchers wrote in an article. They added that while correlations between increases in EHR task load and physician burnout and attrition have been shown in the past, little quantitative data is available on how physicians spend their time.
For the study, researchers observed 57 U.S. physicians in four states to describe how their time was allocated in ambulatory practice. The physicians also kept diaries about their after-hours work.