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 Association (AMA).
Based on data from EHR event logs and confirmed by direct observation data, 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 today 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 David O. Barbe, M.D., M.H.A., 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 today's 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 percent."
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 urgent need for better designed EHR systems, the AMA has made it a top 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
- Expedite user input into product design and post-implementation feedback
The AMA invites physicians to join the country's top EHR experts in our online panel conversation on EHR impact, optimization, and usability. Panelists include: Michael Hodgkins, M.D., M.P.H., the AMA's chief medical information officer; John Halamka, M.D., chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and Mark Friedberg, M.D., M.P.P., senior natural scientist, Rand Corp. This discussion is open to AMA members and non-members.
The AMA has made the well-being of the physician workforce a top priority in national discussions on patient care and health policy, while turning toward healing our profession. As part of this initiative, AMA has created STEPS Forward, an ambitious online practice transformation series launched last year that offers modules to help physicians learn their risk factors for burnout and adopt proven solutions by physicians for physicians that reignite professional fulfillment and resilience.
Through its ongoing work, the AMA is committed to help physicians and their practices thrive so they can continue to put patients first. By advancing initiatives that enhance practice efficiency, professional satisfaction, and the delivery of care, the AMA is striving to help physicians navigate and succeed in a continually evolving health care environment.