UW Study: Over Half of Physician Workday Spent in EHR

Equates to 5.9 hours of 11.4-hour workday for primary care physicians

September 15, 2017

Primary care physicians spend more than half of their workday interacting with their electronic health record (EHR) according to a study published this week in the Annals of Family Medicine. The study, conducted by the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, presents findings and conclusions on primary care physician workload related to the EHR. 

The researchers found clinicians spent 5.9 hours of an 11.4-hour workday in the EHR per 1.0 clinical full-time equivalent. The study tracked and measured non-resident UW family practice physician work and interactions with the electronic health record over a three-year period beginning in 2013. 

Documentation, order entry, billing and coding, security and other clerical and administrative tasks accounted for 2.6 hours of the workday, and inbox management accounted for an additional 1.4 hours.  The study also found that 1.4 hours of EHR time occurred outside of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. clinic hours.

“This study helps to move the conversation within organizations and with policymakers on EHR burden related physician burnout from discussion to actionable quantitative metrics,” said Chuck Shabino, MD, WHA chief medical officer. 

“For policymakers, the study also highlights the cumulative effect that regulatory burden has on physicians’ time,” said Matthew Stanford, WHA general counsel. “A physician’s workday is a finite resource, and WHA will continue to work with policymakers to reduce regulatory burdens to help ensure more of that time is spent providing care to patients.”

WHA’s Physician Leaders Council will be discussing the study at its October meeting, including potential solutions highlighted in the study that align with recommendations in the 2016 WHA Physician Engagement and Retention Toolkit.

The article, “Tethered to the EHR: Primary Care Physician Workload Assessment Using EHR Event Log Data and Time Motion Observations,” appears in the September/October 2017 Annals of Family Medicine, and the full article can be viewed at www.annfammed.org/content/15/5/419.full.pdf.

This story originally appeared in the September 15, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter