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EHRs could leave more time to connect with patients

December 10, 2010

Physicians care about the health of their patients. That’s why they got into the field in the first place. But sometimes their other duties, such as paperwork, lab reports and prescription refills, take up valuable time that could be spent with patients.

However, implementing electronic health record software can greatly cut down on the time needed for many tasks around a medical practice by centralizing and consolidating data that would otherwise be found in several different sources of paperwork.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, physicians spend 18.1 percent of their time on patient visits. The information came from analysis by internist Richard Baron, who documented exactly how much time he and his colleagues spent on different tasks throughout an average day.

At the top of the list were telephone calls, which doctors spent 23.7 percent of their time making. In addition, 19.5 percent of physicians’ time was given to lab reports, putting patient visits third on the doctors’ list.

Additionally, 16.8 percent of their time was given to emails, most for interpreting test results, 13.9 percent was spent on consult reports, 12.1 percent on prescription refills outside of a patient visit and 11.1 percent on imaging reports.

Kevin Pho, M.D., writes on his blog that paperwork takes up as much as one-third of a physician’s work day.

“That’s a lot, and is coming at the expense of face-to-face time with patients,” he said.

But health information technology is the key to saving time by essentially eliminating physical paperwork.

According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, EHRs allow physicians and staff members to more efficiently document interactions with patients, view medical histories and insurance information, make referrals, order lab tests, view test results, send prescription requests and flag potentially harmful drug interactions with just a few simple clicks.

“Rather than chasing paper records, physicians, nurses and other staff members can access EHR” from any department or facility within the computer system, writes the PAMF.

The website EMR and HIPAA breaks down the time saving benefits of an EHR even further. It reports that physicians would only need milliseconds to find and retrieve notes and look up test results; seconds to fax off prescriptions, make appointments, do calculations and reprint letters; and minutes to refill prescriptions and recall patients.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. lori arellano permalink
    December 11, 2010 12:35 am

    I am a patient at palo alto medical foundation. My doctor usually spends 20 minutes or more with during during each of my visits.
    And that time is spent discussing my health. It is never rushed and it is a comfortable conversation. As I provide her with important information, she easliy inputs it into the system. She can check all sorts of details of my history with a couple clicks. The EHR system at Palo Alto Medical has greatly improved the quality of my doctor visits.

  2. December 15, 2010 7:36 pm

    What a great endorsement Lori! Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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