ED Docs Spend More Time With EMRs Than Patients

Emergency department doctors spend substantially more time entering data into EMRs than they do interacting with patients, according to an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study reported by FierceEMR.

According to FierceEMR, the study found that the average percentage of time ED docs spend on data entry was 43 percent. During a 10-hour shift, researchers concluded, total mouse clicks neared 4,000.

In contrast, the amount of time emergency department doctors spent interacting directly with patients during the AJEM study was 28 percent, the researchers found.  Meanwhile, reviewing tests and records accounted for an average of 12 percent of the doctors’ time, and talking to colleagues consumed 13 percent.

It’s hardly surprising that doctors would rack up nearly 4,000 clicks during a shift. Mouse clicks for common charting functions and patient encounters range from a low of six clicks for ordering an aspirin to a high of 227 for completing a record for patients with abdominal pain through the point of discharge, according to an article in Medscape Medical News cited by FierceEMR.

These results are consistent with those of a similar study published earlier this year in the Journal of General Internal MedicineiHealthBeat reports. According to iHealthBeat‘s story,  researchers who observed 29 medical interns at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the University of Maryland Medical College found that the interns spent 40 percent of their time on computer related tasks, and 12 percent of the time talking with and examining patients.

Such reliance on EMRs in the ED may have some benefits, but there are also risks involved,  according to a recent study appearing in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. According to the study, the design of EMRs for emergency departments varies widely, with some having problems which can compromise clinician workflow, communication and ultimately, quality and safety of care.

The Annals research suggests that hospitals ought to be auditing the performance of their EDISs regularly,  given how central these tools are to emergency medicine these days.  If doctors are going to click nearly 4,000 times during a single shift, it’s best if the EDIS in question doesn’t foster communication failures, alert fatigue or wrong order/wrong patient mistakes, all problems which emerge when the EDIS doesn’t function well, researchers concluded.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • These are really practical problems with EMR systems. Doctors should get time to serve to their patients rather than utilizing the bandwidth in front of the desktops. Anne got the point right that doctors are spending more time with EMR than their patients.

    I think there are two aspects, looking after the patients is the most important and priority one thing for a physician, however on the other hand EMR systems are equally important to track the data and to use this data for the betterment of the peoples (patients) in the long run.

    Management/government can have lot of important decisions and improvements on the basis of this data, which will be again coming back to society as benefits.

    In my opinion there should be more efficient data entry mechanism so that doctors are not required to spend lot of time on EMR … just for data entry.

    As I belong to IT industry the most obvious thing that comes in my mind is to have some more handy device (like ipad , tablet or even a smart phone) to do the data entry with very less time , minimum efforts and anytime of the day as per their convenience.

    This is for saving the doctors time. but I absolutely agree with the second point which Anne has raised here, its about the wide design variations and quality of EMR systems. It’s really a challenge to get them aligned and maintain the quality of healthcare services.

    I think we should really have one unified system which should qualify to some standards and should have some sort of certification. We already have Hippa Compliance but this regulation is more on the side of medical domain, what about the IT accuracy of a system like its UI , accuracy, performance, data design there has to be some regulation around these too. So that EMR can become a sort of standard and can be used more effectively.

    If they can capture common parameters, they can then create the “Big Data” in real sense.

    With unified parameters captured, this data can be used for further research which will be revolutionary and eventually benefit everyone the doctor, the patient, the hospital management .. almost everyone in the society 🙂

    I hope this make sense. Thanks Anne for sharing this writeup.

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