Excessive Computer Work Leads to Physician Burnout

physician burnout
physician burnout
Study shows that physicians devote nearly 3.08 hours a day to face-to-face office visits and 3.17 hours to desktop medicine.

HealthDay News — Physicians spend roughly as many hours on computer work as they do meeting with patients, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Researchers focused on time stamps from electronic health records (EHRs) used by 471 primary care physicians at a community health care system between 2011 and 2014.

The doctors saw nearly 637,769 patients face-to-face at least once during the 4-year study period. Time spent on EHRs rose during that time, while total minutes seeing patients declined. 

Overall, the researchers estimated that physicians devoted 3.08 hours a day to face-to-face office visits (average 15 minutes each) and 3.17 hours to desktop medicine. Much of the desktop medicine was patient-related, however. It included prescription refills, medical orders, sending messages to patients, and writing notes about patients in their files. These progress notes alone accounted for an average of 2 hours a day.

“There is growing evidence that excessive use of EHRs is negatively affecting physician well-being,” lead author Ming Tai-Seale, PhD, MPH, associate director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute in California, told HealthDay. “Physicians with burnout symptoms are more likely to reduce their clinic time or even leave practice.”

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Tai-Seale M, Olson CW, Li J, et al. Electronic health record logs indicate that physicians split time evenly between seeing patients and desktop medicine. Health Aff (Millwood). 2017;36(4):655-662. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2016.0811

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