Clinicians Spend More Time Documenting Patient Care, AthenaHealth Study Contributes to Lower Salaries and Increased Burnout | Business

WATERTOWN, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 26, 2022–

athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of networking software and services to medical groups and health systems nationwide, today announced research results that show significant differences in practices interaction with patients and documentation of appointments between female and male clinicians. Clinicians in all specialties and clinical roles see fewer patients per week and spend a higher percentage of time documenting their electronic health record (EHR) outside of patient appointment times compared to male clinicians, according to the research.

And although female and male clinicians spend the same amount of time on cumulative patient documentation per week, female clinicians spend more time on documentation per patient, scheduling an average of 60 encounters per week compared to their male counterparts, who hold in average 73 meetings per week, according to the study. The athenahealth results show that gender differences in documentation minutes per patient encounter are at least 20% across most clinician specialties. More precisely:

  • In cardiology, female clinicians’ documentation time per encounter is 62% higher than that of their male counterparts.
  • In neurology, female clinicians’ documentation time per encounter is 40% higher than that of their male counterparts.
  • In orthopedic surgery, female clinicians’ documentation time per encounter is 33% higher than that of their male counterparts.

“These results represent another example of how the traditional volume-based payment model for medical services contributes to gender inequalities in health care,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research. and editorial strategy at athenahealth. “Clinicians tend to spend more time with patients, which we’ve learned includes the time they spend capturing and documenting each patient’s story.”

Ultimately, that requires clinicians to sacrifice income, Sweeney-Platt said. “Value-based models of care could change incentives related to visit volume and reward clinicians who spend more time per patient, including capturing the full story of each patient. Over time, this shift in guidance could have a significant impact on reducing burnout.”

The impact of delegation and technology

In addition to gender-specific models, research has found that if clinicians could delegate even 10% of documentation work to other members of a care team, they could not only reduce the overall time spent to documentation, but could see reductions in the amount of time spent documenting after hours. Research has shown that cardiologists would benefit the most from delegation, saving 3.2 minutes of EHR per encounter (on average nearly 3.5 hours per week) and reducing their after-hours EHR time by 2.1%. appointments with patients.

Delegation is often easier in larger organizations, which may have more support staff than smaller organizations. Clinicians working in smaller organizations may have less need for delegation because they tend to have more autonomy over scheduling, appointment lengths, and patient numbers. In organizations of all sizes, team-based care models with built-in delegation tools can help reduce EHR time, especially for clinicians who delegate less.

Customer interviews conducted also suggested that the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence could be a game-changer when it comes to the burden of documentation. For example, automated scribes could be used to translate spoken conversations into text in the EHR, and natural language processing algorithms could import documents containing clinical information and automatically populate EHR tables on a patient record.

Documentation after hours

The athenahealth findings also show that clinicians across the industry spend time after hours documenting patient encounters, but that time is associated with the clinician’s specialty and the market in which a clinician works.

The average clinician spends 21.5% of their EHR time outside of patient appointment times. Gastroenterologists and orthopedic surgeons, who both perform many procedures, spend the highest percentage of time in the EHR outside of patient appointment times (31.3% and 30.6%) compared to compared to mental health clinicians, who can usually complete the documentation during the visit itself (16.5%), according to the analysis.

Systemic factors, including the geographic market in which a clinician works, are also associated with the time clinicians spend in the EHR outside of patient appointment times. Clinicians in the North East spend 29% more EHR time outside of patient appointment times compared to those in the South East. Additionally, research has shown that pressure on financial performance is driving practices to require more relative value units (RVUs), defined as the standard unit used by Medicare to determine reimbursement for clinical services, and shorter visits, with each visit multiplying the documentation a clinician needs. to manage. A large-scale shift to value-based care would alleviate this pressure and could align more closely with how clinicians practice medicine.

To learn more about the results, please visit here.


The sample data was derived from analysis of 8.1 million hours of active EHR work performed by 14,520 clinicians using athenahealth software over a five-month period in 2021. Clinicians were asked participate in interviews based on the percentage of time each clinician spent in the EHR. outside of patient appointment hours, targeting both those who spent the least amount of time outside of patient appointment hours (10% or less) and those who spent an average portion of their time in the EHR outside of patient appointment times (approximately 25%) .

About athenahealth, Inc.

athenahealth creates innovative healthcare technology that connects clinicians, patients, payers and partners in differentiated ways. Our electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement tools enable anytime, anywhere access, improving our clients’ bottom line and empowering our provider clients to deliver care better quality. In everything we do, we are inspired by our vision to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality and sustainable healthcare for all. For more information, please visit

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CONTACT: Nikki D’Addario

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SOURCE: athenahealth, Inc.

Copyright BusinessWire 2022.

PUBLISHED: 01/26/2022 10:00 a.m. / DISK: 01/26/2022 10:02 a.m.

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