Left to our own devices, most of us physicians try our best to provide high quality care to our patients. But almost none of us provide perfect care to all of our patients all of the time. In fact, many of us get so caught up in our busy clinic schedules we occasionally forget to, say, order mammograms for women overdue for such tests, or we don’t get around to weaning our aging patients from unnecessary and potentially harmful medications.
Because the quality of American medical care is often uneven, third-party payers – insurance companies and government programs like Medicare – increasingly measure clinician performance and reward or punish physicians who provide particularly high or low quality of care.
The result of all this quality measurement: gazillions of hours of clinic time spent documenting care rather than providing it.
According to one study, in fact, clinic staff spend more than 15 hours per week dealing with quality measures for every physician in the practice. In other words, a six-physician clinic group can expect 90 hours of staff time spent documenting quality performance. And it’s not just the staff that are left to do such documentation. Physicians spend precious time in such activities, too. The same study estimates that physicians spend almost 3 hours per week documenting the quality of their care. Here’s a picture of that finding:
Is it any wonder why so many American physicians report being burned out by their jobs?
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