Primary care physicians spend more time on EHR than face-to-face care, study suggests

Primary care physicians spend a large proportion of their time working on the EHR, including an additional seven minutes on the system per patient after hours, according to a study published in Family Medicine.

For the study, the researchers observed family physician attendings, residents and patients during 982 visits to clinics affiliated with the Residency Research Network of Texas at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. They measured total visit time, previsit chart time, face-to-face time and EHR work time, among other variables.

The researchers determined the average visit length was 35.8 minutes, including 2.9 minutes working in the EHR prior to the physician entering the room, two minutes working in the EHR while in the room and 6.9 minutes on EHR work outside of typical clinic hours. The average visit also included 7.5 minutes of non-face-to-face time, much of which was spent with the EHR.

The average patient visit comprised 16.5 minutes of face-to-face time with the patient.

"Primary care physicians spent more time working in the EHR than they spent in face-to-face time with patients in clinic visits," the study authors concluded, noting, "The total time and total EHR time varied only slightly between faculty physicians, third-year and second-year residents."

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