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Doctors Using EHRs Spend More Time on Administrative Work, Study Finds

October 31, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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Doctors who use electronic health records (EHRs) are more likely to spend time on administrative work than those who do not.

That was one of the key findings of a study from researchers at the City University of New York and Harvard Medical School. The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Health Services.

The researchers, Steffie Woolhandler, M.D. and David Himmelstein, M.D., looked at the 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, which used a sample of 4,720 physicians who practiced at least 20 hours per week. The average doctor spends 8.7 hours per week, or 16.6 percent of their working time, on administration. Doctors with an EHR spend 17.2 percent of their time on administrative tasks while it’s 18 percent for those who use both electronic and paper. Those who only use paper records spend 15.5 percent of their time on administration.

“Although proponents of electronic medical records have long promised a reduction in doctors’ paperwork, we found the reverse is true,” the authors write.

The authors note that since 2008, when the survey data was collected, many doctors have moved from small private practices with minimal bureaucracy into giant group practices where bureaucracy is rampant. “And under the accountable care organizations favored by insurers, more doctors are facing HMO-type incentives to deny care to their patients, a move that our data shows drives up administrative work,” the authors write.

What’s the answer? According to the Himmelstein, “We need to move to a simple, nonprofit national health insurance system that lets doctors and hospitals focus on patients, not finances.”


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