Physicians are becoming data collectors; Something's got to give

As technology evolves, the government continues to impose more regulations on data collection. Data collection is a valuable tool for healthcare facilities, but it does not come without its set of challenges.

"EMRs are certainly necessary," says David Geier, MD, of Sports Medicine Specialists of Charleston and East Cooper Sports Medicine in South Carolina. "However, they can be fairly time consuming."

It typically takes two minutes to three minutes per patient for Dr. Geier to enter all the necessary information into the online platform. However, it may take some physicians up to 10 minutes until they become better acquainted with the process.

While the information is necessary for overall quality care, physicians often claim electronic health records significantly add to physicians' workload and administrative tasks. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine found physicians, on average, spend 43 percent of their time on data entry and a mere 28 percent of their time with patients.

While documentation may be viewed by many as a tedious task, there are certain measures healthcare practices can take to lessen the burden. Physicians can use dictation tools to enter patient's data into the system. However, these tools may be fickle and may not significantly reduce data entry time.

"You can dictate the information which can help with some of the time issues," says Dr. Geier. "But even with dictation, you have to go into Meaningful Use and put things in by hand."

Some healthcare facilities hire scribes to manually enter data in the system. Other facilities may utilize nurse practitioners or physician assistants to enter data. However, hiring staff is not cheap and facilities scaling back on costs can't hire additional staff.  

"One way or the other, you are paying in time or money to get data into the system," says Dr. Geier.

Healthcare officials will continue to demand more data from providers, but this may take a toll. Physician burn-out in the United States is reaching 46 percent and many physicians cite "too many bureaucratic tasks" as a reason for stress. Without compromising patient care, the healthcare industry may have to find innovative ways to collect data.

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