Doctors Think Doctors Spend Too Much Time On Paperwork

Physicians Time Spent On Paperwork

In a recent article Roy Benaroch M.D., a pediatrician and author of A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child, shines light on a peculiar study that breaks down just how a doctor spends his/her time throughout a typical day in a real granular perspective.

In the study examined, led by Christine A. Sinsky, MD, a team of researchers evaluated data for the  AMA’s Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties.

The researchers had medical students (hopefully they were paid) follow 57 U.S. physicians in 4 different specialties in 4 different cities for a total of 430 observation hours. These physicians were all observed during their office hours (excluding time in the hospitals and operating rooms).” explains Benaroch.

Using a technique called The Work Observation Method By Activity Timing, or WOMBAT for short, Medical students tracked doctors’ activities all day, and arranged them under four categories in addition to ‘self-reported after-hours work’.

  • Direct clinical facetime
  • Electronic health record [EHR] and desk work
  • Administrative tasks
  • Other tasks

Here are the results found by researchers of just how physicians spend their day:

  • 27.0% of their total time is spent on direct clinical facetime and patient care
  • 49.2% of their time was spent on EHR and desk work. While in the examination room with patients, physicians spent
  • 52.9% of their time (while in examination room) is spent on direct clinical facetime
  • 37.0% of their time (while in examination room) is spent on EHR and desk work
  • 21 physicians who completed after-hours diaries reported 1 to 2 hours of after-hours work (mostly to EHR tasks) each night

Roy Benaroch provokes a thoughtful conversation by motioning for the sarcastic renaming of the medical school curriculum, as he is totally floored by the glaring data that proves what he and so many other doctors already know – they spend way too much time doing paperwork, instead of helping improve health outcomes.

The surgical clerkship can become “Type, click, backspace, repeat,” and all of obstetrics and gynecology can become “Prior authorization jujitsu.” This will surely prepare the next generation of medical students (nurses, too!) for what’s to come. If anyone still wants to do it. We’ll leave the light on when we leave, just in case.” stated Benaroch.

Since the job description of the doctors’ of tomorrow is 2 parts data entry specialist, and 1 part patient care, shouldn’t the curriculum and training be shaped around the expectation?

The opportunity to impact health outcomes lies where all the action of medicine is: with and among patients, not buried under their records.

Joseph Bryant
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