ER docs spend more time looking at EHRs than interacting with patients

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Emergency doctors spend significantly more time entering data into electronic health records than they do with patients, a study published this month in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine finds.

In the study, the average percentage of time spent on data entry by physicians was 43 percent, while time spent directly interacting with patients was only 28 percent. Reviewing tests and records took up an average of 12 percent of doctors' time, while talking to colleagues took up 13 percent. During a 10-hour busy shift, total mouse clicks neared 4,000.

"Emergency department physicians spend significantly more time entering data into electronic medical records than on any other activity, including direct patient care," author Robert Hill, M.D. from St. Luke's University Health Network in Allentown, Pa., said. "Factors such as operating system speed, server/mainframe responsiveness, typing skills, user-friendliness of system, interruptions, extent of training, opportunity to delegate tasks, and various environmental attributes can influence data entry time. Efficient use of the EMR system will increase physician productivity and hospital revenue."

Mouse clicks for common charting functions and patient encounters ranged from a low of six for ordering an aspirin, to a high of 227 for completing an EMR for a patient with abdominal pain through the point of discharge, an article in Medscape Medical News noted.

By contrast, using an electronic medication management system did not significantly affect the amount of time doctors and nurses in Australian spent on direct patient care or medication-related tasks, according to research published in the Journal American Medical Informatics Association. What's more, another study published in in JAMIA in February found that using computerized physician order entry averted 17.4 million medication errors in the U.S. in a single year.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the Medscape article

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