Hand-washing Isn't So Simple; Trouble Staying Awake?; More

Marcy Tolkoff, JD


January 21, 2015

In This Article

Physicians Drowning in Paperwork

The average US doctor spends 8.7 hours per week—16% of his or her working hours—on non–patient-related paperwork, according to a nationwide study just published in the International Journal of Health Services.[8,9] And, it appears, the more time spent on such administrative tasks, the lower their career satisfaction.

Researchers analyzed confidential data from the 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey (the most recent data available), which collected information from a nationally representative sample of 4720 physicians who practiced at least 20 hours per week. "Administrative tasks" included billing, obtaining insurance approvals, financial and personnel management, and negotiating contracts (and excluded patient-related tasks, such as writing chart notes, communicating with other doctors, and ordering lab tests).

Broken down by specialties, internists and family/general practitioners (17.3%) spent the most time on paperwork (second only to psychiatrists). Also, as one might expect, solo practice was associated with more administrative work—but surprisingly, those in small group practices spent less time on such tasks (16%) than those in groups of 100 or more (20%).

Career satisfaction was understandably lower for physicians who spent more time on administration. "Very satisfied" doctors spent, on average, 16% of their time on administration. "Very dissatisfied" doctors spent 21% of their time on such tasks.

The cost is not just a personal one, but societal as well: The authors estimate that the millions of hours physicians spend on administration in 2014 will come to $102 billion.


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