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Doctors Wasting Over Two-Thirds Of Their Time Doing Paperwork

The issue of increasing medical bureaucracy is at a critical juncture. All of the well-intentioned technical additions for healthcare administration, such as electronic health records are having a paradoxical effect on the quality of care, and also decreases efficiency due to its poor design. 

Electronic health records are superb at capturing and saving critical medical information. It serves bureaucrats, support personnel, and payers well. However, the first and last link in the equation are physicians who are reduced to data entry clerks.

Paperwork for many doctors has become overwhelming. While initiatives have tried to convert paperwork into electronic paperwork, are the new systems actually designed to make doctors' lives easier? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If medical school curricula were based on what a recent study says many doctors actually do with their time, more than half of medical school would be on how to do paperwork. Medical school admissions essays would be on "why I really want to do paperwork when I grow up." Required classes would be "Introduction to Filling Out Forms" and "Advanced Form-filling." Indeed, a recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every hour physicians were seeing patients, they were spending nearly two additional hours on paperwork. Is this really the best use of doctors' training and ability? Isn't this like telling LeBron James to spend the majority of his time manning the Cleveland Cavaliers ticket windows and phone lines? And isn't this also wasting the time of patients, who came for the doctor's medical expertise, not paperwork expertise?

Medical interns spend over 43% of their day on EHR use, study finds
Medical Educators realize this problem

Physicians who were already peaked out prior to the adoption of the electronic health records, and the additional impact of CMS rules, MIPS, new ICD 10 codes, requirements for MOC (maintenance of competence) recertification by specialty boards and more are burning out
Physicians are also talking about their 'moral dilemma' as they are required to follow insurance company rules in order to be reimbursed.

Studies have shown that physician dissatisfaction affects patient care and thus patient satisfaction. For instance, a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine of 11 general internal medicine practices in the greater-Boston area demonstrated that patients of more satisfied physicians also were more satisfied with their health care.  Makes sense. Just like you don't want to have a pissed-off chef, lawyer or airplane pilot.
Something has to change. Hire people to help with paperwork, develop better technology to complete the paperwork, give physicians more time to see fewer patients or get rid of paperwork. Despite concerns having been raised, what is really being done? There needs to be real action. Otherwise, doctors will just have less and less time to actually examine and treat patients. And this will hurt everyone and eventually the entire system will hit a breaking point. After all, no patient wants to hear the following words in a waiting room, "the doctor will see your paperwork now."

Doctors Wasting Over Two-Thirds Of Their Time Doing Paperwork: Tune in the next epidisode of the ABC Network drama series, "Grey's Anatomy," when Dr. Meredith Grey, (played by Ellen Pompeo) does paperwork. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)

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