How doctors can better manage uncompensated work

Physicians spend large chunks of time bogged down handling uncompensated tasks like paperwork, but there are steps doctors can take to reduce that workload.

Doctors can lose as much as $50,000 a year on uncompensated daily tasks, Joseph Valenti, M.D., a board member of the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit physician advocacy group, told Medical Economics. This workload can be especially high for primary care doctors, who are often responsible for coordinating care with specialists and contacting payers for prior authorizations, he said.

“So many independent practices are folding because they can’t keep their heads above water, Valenti said. “I really feel for them. It’s exceedingly difficult to do what they do every day.”

RELATED: Study: EHRs bloat clerical workload for docs

A large volume of paperwork, for instance, is a driver of burnout and job dissatisfaction among doctors. Many report they spend an hour or more on paperwork each day, which takes them away from face-to-face time with patients. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched an initiative in October to help doctors cut down on time spent filling out paperwork.

Nitin Damle, M.D., president of the American College of Physicians, told Medical Economics that one strategy he adopts at his practice is to work on paperwork between appointments or over lunch instead of tackling it all at once. Damle said he spends close an hour a day reading and answering messages from patients through online portals, and he noted that his practice is looking to use a “triage” system to better sift through messages that need immediate responses from him directly.

Another common complaint from doctors: the amount of time spent inputting data into electronic health records. A recent study found that for each hour a doctor spends with a patient, they spend two hours entering information into EHRs. Much of the work that kept doctors after hours was dedicated to EHRs.

Damle said he employs full-time scribes to cut down on time spent with EHRs. He fills in needed information on a paper template that he then gives to scribes to enter into the system. These staff members can increase physician productivity by as much as 10%, which can increase revenue, according to the article.