Medical appointments are getting shorter by the year. Sometimes it feels like doctors have no time to spend with their patients.
What’s to blame for these brief clinical interactions? It could be the electronic health record, or EHR. Because of changes in how insurance companies and the government pay for medical care, doctors increasingly need to document their care on the computer, causing many physicians to spend more time with their desktops than with their patients.
Two recent studies give us quantitative estimates of the stupendous amount of time physicians spend on computers, rather than in direct contact with their patients. In one study, researchers directly observed physicians in outpatient clinics, asking these doctors to document the time they spend on the EHR after hours. The study assessed physicians from four specialties: family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, and orthopedics. The study found, on average, that doctors spend half their working time on the EHR.
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