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EHRs eating up half of doctors' workday with unpaid labor

Doctors are reimbursed for office visits, lab work and medical procedures but not for desktop tasks.

Bernie Monegain, Editor, Healthcare IT News

Doctors spend about half of their EHR time during patient encounters, according to new findings published in Health Affairs. The other half is consumed by desktop medicine tasks for which they do not get reimbursed.

"Physicians logged an average of 3.08 hours on office visits and 3.17 hours on desktop medicine each day," the authors wrote. "Over time, log records from physicians showed a decline in the time allocated to face-to-face visits, accompanied by an increase in time allocated to desktop medicine."

Researchers looked at data captured by electronic health records time-stamp functionality 31 million EHR transactions conducted between 2011-2014 by 471 primary care physicians and 765,129 patient records to measure how doctors spend their time.

Since doctors are reimbursed for office visits, lab work, and medical procedures but not for desktop tasks, the authors suggested their findings highlight the misalignment of the current fee-for-service payment policy and the potential for physician burnout with EHR use.

[Also: Physicians besieged by 'burnout,' pessimistic view of profession, Physicians Foundation study says]

Measuring how physicians spend their clinical time is essential in making staffing decisions and improving the accuracy of payment for physician services, the researchers pointed out.

While there was no statistically significant difference in EHR time between internists and family physicians, the authors also noted that pediatricians spend less time on face-to-face visits and patient-centered medical homes spend more time with patients and less time on desktop medicine. 

This article first appeared in Healthcare IT News.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN

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