Healthcare IT Information Physician Compensation Quality Supply of Medical Services

Physician time spent on direct patient interaction, or: How I learned to stop talking to patients and start loving EHRs

Although this study about 18 months old, I just came across this and the findings were really surprising.

During the office day, physicians spent 27.0% of their total time on direct clinical face time with patients and 49.2% of their time on EHR and desk work. While in the examination room with patients, physicians spent 52.9% of the time on direct clinical face time and 37.0% on EHR and desk work. The 21 physicians who completed after-hours diaries reported 1 to 2 hours of after-hours work each night, devoted mostly to EHR tasks.

On the one hand, decreasing physician interaction with patients is problematic as this is physicians comparative advantage.  That the same time EHR work should not be seen as complete deadweight loss.  Physicians take in information and make treatment decisions based on this information.  Thus, spending time collecting, updating, and reviewing EHR data, can be productive use of time.  However, it is surprising that physicians spend more time on EHR and desk work than patient interactions.  This trend likely reduces physician job satisfaction and may decrease the quality of candidates who begin to pursue medical degrees in the future.  The effect quality of patient care, however, is a complex question that is still being sorted out.

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