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Posted on Jan 15, 2020, 7 p.m.

Every day physicians spend a considerable amount of time using electronic health records to support care delivery, this amount of time widely varies in distribution within specialty according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Close to 155,000 American physicians from 417 health systems were involved in this study to examine how much time ambulatory medical subspecialists and primary care physicians across the nation’s delivery care systems spend on various EHR functions; data was obtained from the Lights On Network during 2018 which totaled time spent on 13 clinically focused EHR functions. 

100 million patient encounters were included in the data, the researchers found that per encounter physicians spend on average 16 minutes and 14 seconds using EHRs with documentation taking up 24% of the time, chart review taking 33%, and ordering functions taking up 17% of the time accounting for the majority. Within each specialty there was considerable variation in the distribution of time spent by the providers using EHRs, but across specialties the proportion of time spent on various clinically focused functions was similar. 

"The wide variability in the time providers within specialties spend using the EHR to care for patients is an important finding and warrants further investigation," the authors write.

Take a moment to let that sink in, even if the number is low as some suggest, on average 16 minutes per each encounter every day performing functions on EHRs. It is estimated that physicians also spend about 20 hours a week dealing with insurance to go along with that. This means that physicians simply don’t have as much time as they used to spend with their patients. Most physicians got into medicine to help people, being reduced to have to see them in increments of 15 minutes or less is not what most signed up for. Primary care is unfortunately being pushed to an assembly line like system, it is causing deterioration of doctor patient relationships and contributing to burnout, clearly some change is needed.

Both authors of this report, J. Marc Overhage, M.D., Ph.D., and David McCallie Jr., M.D., from Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri have disclosed financial ties to the Cerner Corporation. 

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