Healthcare News & Insights

Just what does a doctor do all day?

Patients love to gripe about wait times, but a new report shows just how much goes on “behind the scenes” at the typical small practice. 

Doctors at Greenhouse Internists, a small Philadelphia practice, mined their practice’s electronic health records (EHRs) to track exactly how their workdays were split among various tasks. They published the results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The practice is a five-physician practice with an active caseload of just under 8,500 patients. The study examined physician tasks during 2008.

During that time, the physicians averaged a 50-60 hour workweek, and had 3.5 support staff per physician including medical assistants, a biller, etc. The practice has no nurses. Each doctor saw an average of 18.1 patients per day.

Here’s the breakdown of how the docs spent their time:

  • Received/made an average of 23.7 calls per day. About 80% of these were handled directly by the doctor.
  • Wrote an average 16.8 e-mails per day. Of these, 59% were test result interpretations, 22% were responses to patients, 9% were about administrative issues, 5% were regarding acute problems, 3% were proactive patient outreach, and 2% were discussions with consultants.
  • Reviewed 19.5 lab reports.
  • Reviewed 13.9 consult reports.
  • Processed 12.1 prescription refills, not including those that were part of a patient visit.
  • Reviewed 11.1 imaging reports.

Those tasks don’t include time spent updating patient records following this work, or time spent communicating with patients and others.

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