News & Commentary

EHRs Taking Over More of PCP Days


Family medicine doctors spend more than six hours interacting with electronic health records (EHRs) during a typical day, which usually lasts 11.4 hours, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association (AMA).

AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, said in a statement that “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.”

The retrospective cohort study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, examined data generated by 142 PCPs at a large family health care center in Wisconsin from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2016.

Researchers say that there are ways to fix the problem. For instance, “eliminating the 14 minutes per day that physicians spend on billing and coding would open up capacity to do other tasks, such as inbox management, team huddles, or another 15-minute appointment.”

Some of the fixes seem simple enough. For instance, “we discovered that our family medicine physicians were spending nearly as much time on system security (10 minutes) as on reading or editing the problem list (12 minutes) each day. Our organizational leadership subsequently invested in a single sign-in system to reduce clinician time spent on system security.”

In his statement, Barbe said that “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.”