Medicine Work
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How much time do doctors spend emailing? More than you'd expect.

September 12, 2017

Study: Doctors get bogged down by work email and mundane office tasks just like the rest of us

Though doctors are known for working long days that outnumber many other careers, there are some commonalities everyone in the workforce can relate to. According to new research, it turns out doctors can get just as entrapped by an unrelenting email inbox as the rest of us.

In a new study out of the University of Wisconsin published in the Annals of Family Medicine, authors looked at 142 family medicine physicians within one Wisconsin single system to observe the ways electronic health record (EHR) systems are shifting the world of primary care.

The physicians logged their time spent on direct patient care and non-face-to-face activities, and researchers found that the doctors spent a whopping 44 percent of their day doing clerical tasks, with 24 percent spent tethered to email.

The percentages are based on an average 11.4-hour workday, though researchers noted that shifts changed depending on the day of the week, particularly weekends.

“Primary care has become increasingly complex, with electronic health record systems adding to the complexity. Our patients expect same-day access for face-to-face care during clinic hours and rapid responses to telephone calls, patient portal messages, laboratory result inquiries, and prescription renewal requests both during and after clinic hours,” the study introduction reads.

“It is imperative to understand factors contributing to workload and identify practical solutions to these challenges.”

The study notes that the rate of imbalance and dissatisfaction among U.S. physicians is on the upswing, with more than 50 percent of physicians burning out. The growth of EHR systems, the study asserts, has a big role in those numbers.

“To address clinician well-being, it is critical to understand how clinician workload is affected by EHR use,” the study posits.

With the newly completed data about how doctors spend their time, the report offers a few solutions that could come in handy, largely centered on methods of delegation. Read more about the study here