Physicians 'increasingly tethered' to MyChart, study finds

Primary care physicians have become "increasingly tethered" to their patient portal inboxes, illustrating the need for health systems to solve EHR burnout, a new study found.

From the year before the pandemic to the most recent study year (April 2022 to March 2023), the average primary care physician spent an additional 28 minutes per eight hours of scheduled time in the EHR, 23 more minutes on orders, 14 more minutes in inboxes, seven more minutes on chart reviews, and three more minutes on notes, according to the January study in the Annals of Family Medicine. Physicians also spent more time working outside scheduled hours (six minutes) and on days off (14 more minutes).

"It's taken a toll on how much I exercise, how much I sleep, the interpersonal relationships and friendships that I have with people," Brian Arndt, MD, study co-author and physician with Madison, Wis.-based UW Health, told WKOW. "I work continuously throughout the day with every break that I get between patients to get into the in-basket and address MyChart messages."

While inbox time declined by about 2 minutes in the final year of the study period, the researchers still called it "imperative" for health systems to come up with "strategies to change the EHR workload trajectory." Several health systems have started billing patients for MyChart messages to address the issue.

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