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Physicians May Overestimate Time Spent with Patients

Family doctors spend more than one-third of their workday outside the exam room

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Family physicians spend 39% of their office-based time working outside the traditional examination room, but 61% of that time is related to medical care, according to a study published in the November/December issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Valerie Gilchrist, M.D., of Ohio Universities College of Medicine, and colleagues recorded the office activities of 27 family physicians in northeastern Ohio on one practice day during 2000.

During an average 8-hour 8-minute workday, physicians saw an average of 20.1 patients and spent an average of 17.5 minutes with each. They spent 3 hours 8 minutes -- or more than one-third of the day -- outside the exam room, mostly charting and dictating, and overestimated the time they spent in direct contact with patients.

In a related study, Andrew Gottschalk, B.S., of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues found with direct observation that 11 physicians worked an average of 8.6 hours daily, 55% of it in face-to-face patient care.

"Nearly one-half of a primary care physician's workday is spent on activities outside the examination room, predominantly focused on follow-up and documentation of care for patients not physically present," the authors write.

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