Doctors Spend Only a Quarter of the Day with Patients, Study Says

They spend twice as much time doing administrative and desk work.


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Next time your doctor keeps you waiting, a new study says, it’s safe to assume she’s doing paperwork.

Researchers found that doctors spent only 27 percent of their day working face-to-face with patients, and devoted almost twice as much time to desk work, filling out electronic health records (EHRs), and completing assorted administrative tasks. On top of that, some clinicians complete an additional one to two hours of administrative work on their own time.

While eye-opening, the study—out of the American Medical Association, New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, New Hampshire’s Sharp End Advisory, and Australia’s Macquarie University—was small. It tracked only 57 clinicians from Illinois, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington who were working in family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, or orthopedics. The researchers note that the findings may not be generalizable to every hospital or clinic.

Still, the study highlights the incredible inefficiencies that come with medical care. In an accompanying editorial, Susan Hingle, of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, calls out EHRs in particular.

“Electronic health records were implemented to improve the efficiency and quality of patient care, but they have yet to achieve that promise,” she writes. “Now is the time to go beyond complaining about EHRs and other practice hassles and to make needed changes to the health care system that will redirect our focus from the computer screen to our patients and help us rediscover the joy of medicine.”