A University of Wisconsin study shows physicians spent 5.9 hours of an 11.4 hour work day on tasks related to electronic health records.

Primary care physicians spend more than half of their work day on electronic health records during and after clinic hours, says a new study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The study shows physicians spent 5.9 hours of an 11.4 hour work day on tasks related to electronic health records.

“While physician burnout happens for a number of reasons, spending a good deal of the work day and beyond on electronic health records is one of the things that leads to burnout,” says

University of Wisconsin associate professor of family medicine and community health Dr. Brian Arndt.

142 family medicine physicians in the University of Wisconsin system were part of the study and all electronic health records interactions were tracked over a three-year period from 2013 to 2016 for both direct patient care and non-face-to-face activities.

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The study found that clinicians spent 4.5 hours during business and patient hours each day on electronic health records. Another 1.4 hours before or after clinic  hours were also used by doctors for electronic health records documentation for a total of 5.9 hours each day. Primary care physicians spent nearly two hours on electronic health records per hour of direct patient care, the study says.

Dr. Brian Arndt

“When you factor in the non-electronic health records duties, it adds up to a work day of 11.4 hours, representing a significant intrusion on physicians’ personal and family lives,” Arndt says.

Order entry, billing and coding, and system security accounted for nearly half of the total electronic health records time of 2.6 hours, the study says. Clerical duties like medication refills, interpretation of laboratory and imaging results, letters to patients, responding by e-mail to questions about medications and incoming and outgoing phone calls accounted for another 1.4 hours of every work day.

“It is imperative to find ways to reduce documentation burden on physicians,” Arndt says. “Having clinical staff enter verbal or handwritten notes (based on a standardized checklist) could save time and allow physicians to focus more on the patient.”

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