HCN News & Notes

Study: Type-and-click Tasks Drain Half the Primary-care Workday

CHICAGO — Primary-care physicians spend more than half of their workday at a computer screen performing data entry and other tasks with electronic medical records (EHRs), according to new research from experts at the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Assoc. (AMA).

Based on data from EHR event logs and confirmed by direct observation, researchers found that, during a typical, 11.4-hour workday, primary-care physicians spent nearly six hours on data entry and other tasks with EHR systems during and after clinical hours. The study was published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

“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,” said AMA President Dr. David Barbe, a family physician from Mountain Grove, Mo. “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.”

High volumes of clerical and administrative tasks associated with EHRs, and the resultant time pressures, are among the major drivers of alarming levels of physician burnout. As the study notes, “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{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}.”

The AMA shares physicians’ frustration stemming from poorly designed and implemented EHRs. An overhaul of EHR systems is needed to address the lack of actionable data for patient care, convoluted workflows that take time away from patients, and long hours added to difficult clinical days just to complete quality reporting and documentation requirements.

Responding to the need for better-designed EHR systems, the AMA has made it a priority to advance a framework of eight priorities for improving EHR usability to benefit caregivers and patients. Physicians believe it is a national imperative to reframe the design and configuration of EHR technology to emphasize the following priorities: enhance physicians’ ability to provide high-quality patient care, support team-based care, promote care coordination, offer product modularity and configurability, reduce cognitive workload, promote data liquidity, facilitate digital and mobile patient engagement, and expedite user input into product design and post-implementation feedback.

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