Contrary to common belief, family physicians spend a significant number of hours working overtime. However, in most cases, time is spent on EHR. The time that every physician spends on the EHR varies significantly. According to a study published in the February 2020 issue of Family Medicine, the amount of time that family physicians spend on the EHR ranges from zero to a maximum of 33 hours in a month. The high number of hours that family physicians spend on EHR indicates the increased significance of the concept in family health care practice.
An excellent example of a comprehensive study of the amount that family physicians spend working overtime in the EHR is that conducted by the University of Arizona College of Medicine. 24 trainees in the field of family medicine participated in the study. The trainees were in their postgraduate years. Also, the study incorporated 10 physicians from the institution based in Phoenix to participate in the study. All the participants were family medicine physicians. The study lasted for six months, from January of 2017 to June of the same year.
The researchers used a web-based application called Cerner Advance to collect data about the time spent on the EHR. The application not only captures the data but also presents it accurately. The app is crucial for collecting set specific data based on different topics. In the study, the web-based application collected user-specific information about the number of patients seen by a physician, the time spent with each patient, and that time spent working after hours. However, the researchers did not collect full information regarding encounters with resident patients.
The research team used different factors to account for the time that the physicians spent in the EHR. First, the researchers defined the time spent in the EHR using the number of mouse clicks per minute. Three mouse clicks or more within a minute designated time spent in the EHR. Another definition was through keyboard strokes. This criterion required at least 15 keyboard strokes in a minute. Finally, 1700 mouse pixels in every minute of mouse movement also define EHR time. However, different factors defined EHR after-hour use. First, the EHR after hour use was defined as spending time in the EHR in the period between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The second definition was spending time in the EHR during the weekend.
From the results of the study, the overtime spent working in the EHR varies. It depends on the level of postgraduate training of the participants. The hours spent per hour range from 0.9 to 26 hours among the postgraduate students with up to 3 years of training. The cohort with two years with 2 years of training spent 0.3 to 33.7 hours per month. The postgraduate participants with one year of training spent between zero and 10. 9 hours. Finally, the faculty cohort spent between zero and 28.22 hours.
Despite the success of the research, the authors noted some limitations in the study. The first limitation was the inability to measure the faculty staff’s EHR time. The second limitation was the proximity of the EHR transition to the study period. Nonetheless, the authors concluded that the level of training does not reduce the variation in EHR overtime.
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