Study: Physicians spend 50% of their day on 'desktop medicine'

A study in Health Affairs investigated how physicians split their time between patient visits and computer tasks.

The researchers — led by Ming Tai-Seale, PhD, associate director of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute — identified 471 primary care physicians who collectively worked on 31 million EHR transactions between 2011 and 2014. The researchers used the EHRs' time stamp functionality to examine how physicians allocated their time.

Over time, EHR logs showed a decline in physician time spent on face-to-face visits with patients and an increase in time spent on "desktop medicine," which includes communicating with patients via patient portal, responding to patients' online requests, sending staff messages and reviewing test results. On average, physicians spent 3.08 hours on office visits each day and 3.17 hours on desktop medicine each day.

The researchers recommended "staffing and scheduling in the physician's office, as well as provider payment models for primary care practice, should account for these desktop medicine efforts."

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