Study: Docs spend more time with computers than patients

Doctors may spend up to three times as much time with computers as they do with patients, according to new research. 

The study, conducted at a Swiss hospital, found that residents at the facility spent nearly half their day on computers. The docs, on average, spent about 1.7 hours a day with patients and 5.2 hours on computers, with about 13 minutes spent doing both.

"That so much of residents' time is spent on the computer, rather than on direct patient care and interaction, suggests we need to rethink how residents' time is allocated to achieve a more reasonable balance," Nathalie Wenger, M.D., a researcher at the University Hospital of Lausanne where the study was conducted and its lead author, told Medscape Medical News (reg. req.).

RELATED: Study: EHRs bloat clerical workload for docs

Doctors report that time spent inputting data into electronic health records and other computer tasks eats into time with patients and contributes to their exhaustion and burnout. Medical interns may spend as many as seven hours a day with EHRs.

The study focused on the day-to-day activities of 36 residents recorded between May and July 2015. The researchers recorded the doctors’ daily activities in real time using tablets, for a total of nearly 700 hours.

The researchers noted which shifts were during the day and which were at night to see if that shaped the results. The residents spent about 28% of day shifts in activities directly related to patient care, while about 52% was spent on other tasks, like recording data in EHRs and looking for information. The distribution of time across activities was similar for those working night shifts, according to the study.

The researchers also noted that doctors spent a good amount of their after-hours time on computer tasks. Wenger told Medscape that the findings indicate the industry must make organizational and technology changes to make sure that EHRs don't detract from the efficiency of healthcare practice.