What does “quantity time” with the EHR mean for doctors?

The fact that physicians spend so much time electronically documenting and reviewing patient data is no longer news. But a recent study discussed in Forbes shows how dramatically the balance of physician time is shifting from patients to EHRs. IMO’s Chief Marketing Officer explains.
Medical Coding Companies

Earlier this week, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study on the amount of time ambulatory subspecialists and primary care physicians spend actively focused on the EHR during a given patient encounter. The work focused on 155,000 U.S.-based doctors using Cerner’s Millennium EHR, specifically extracting data from “software log files in the Lights On Network (Cerner) during 2018 that totaled the time spent on each of the 13 clinically focused EHR functions” during roughly 100 million patient encounters.

Researchers found that, on average, physicians spent 16 minutes and 14 seconds per patient encounter using the EHR. Various functions—including chart review (33%), documentation (24%), and ordering (17%)—accounted for the greatest percentage of those 16+ minutes.

So where’s the rub? In an article on the study published in Forbes this week, author Bruce Y. Lee suggests that the time doctors spend in the EHR during an average patient visit is a minute and a quarter “longer than your typical 15-minute patient appointment slot.”

For me, the question isn’t: is the EHR a dispensable tool? (It is not). The question isn’t: would patients be better off if their doctors didn’t use electronic health record systems? (They would not). The question isn’t: does healthcare information technology diminish quality interaction between physicians and patients? (There are too many variables and too many definitions to parse in that question).

For me the important question, the essential question, is: how can HIT companies—be they medical coding companies, healthcare software firms, consulting agencies, or EHR manufacturers themselves—continually improve the tools they build to better enable desired outcomes (and Outcomes) for doctors and patients?

I welcome your thoughts via email mklozotsky@imo-online.com or on Twitter @MKlozotsky.

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