One limitation of the study is that patients could opt out of observation, making the snapshots of workflow incomplete. Researchers also didn’t track the number of patients seen per hour, the complexity of patients treated or the work activities of support staff.
Even so, the authors conclude that physician burnout may become more likely when doctors get less time to spend treating patients.
Efforts to reduce administrative burdens and give doctors more time to spend with patients may make it easier for physicians to focus directly on providing care and help reduce the potential for burnout, Hingle wrote in an editorial published with the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, September 6.
“I think that technology needs to be changed so that it is more user friendly, less burdensome, and returns the focus to the patient’s story, rather than minute details that don’t really impact patient satisfaction or outcomes,” Hingle told Reuters Health.
- Sinsky C, Colligan L, Li L, et. al. Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Sep 6.doi: 10.7326/M16-0961. [Epub ahead of print].
- Hingle S. Electronic Health Records: An Unfulfilled Promise and a Call to Action. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Sep 6. doi: 10.7326/M16-1757. [Epub ahead of print].