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Study: Multitasking EHR Use Compromises 30 Percent of Patient Visit Time

July 10, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Multitasking EHR use—when the technology is used during the same time as when a clinician or patient is talking during a visit—compromised more than 30 percent of visit time, according to research recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the study, 35 patient-clinician visits were reviewed in primary care and specialty care settings. To set up the research, the study’s authors noted that clinicians may sometimes use EHRs (electronic health records) in silence (defined for this purpose as using the technology without talking for more than three seconds), risking lowering patient satisfaction; or by multitasking while talking to patients.

The observational study (2013 to 2015) included five primary and specialty safety-net clinics transitioning from basic to fully-functional EHRs. The final analysis included 25 clinicians and 25 patients with visits after a fully functional EHR was implemented in the practice. The median length of each visit in the study was 20.6 minutes.

Among the 35 visits between 25 patients and 25 clinicians, the findings revealed that multitasking EHR use compromised 30.5 percent of visit time; silent EHR 4.6 percent; multitasking non-EHR tasks 4.3 percent; and focused patient-clinician talk 33 percent.

Clinicians’ EHR use during patient visits has frequently been studied and has been a point of significant discussion of late, as many have stated that technology has negatively impacted the provider-patient relationship. A very recent survey in fact, as reported by Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Heather Landi, indicated widespread agreement among physicians that maintaining electronic health records undermines their connection with patients.

However, hospital-based physicians cited different reasons than their office-based counterparts. The findings of that survey showed hospital-based physicians commented most frequently that they spend less time with patients because they have to spend more time on computers; office-based physicians commented most frequently on EHRs worsening the quality of their interactions and relationships with patients.

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