What Keeps Primary Care Physicians So Busy?
Primary care physicians are responsible for more than office visits in the exam room, and a new report proves it.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine offers a year-long snapshot of the Greenhouse Internists medical practice in Philadelphia. Using electronic medical records, the practice tracked activities of physicians and support staff during 2008.
Here's a breakdown of what kept the practice's primary care physicians busy during an average work day:
Doctors reviewed nearly 20 lab reports each day. After analyzing the results, physicians must interpret the results to patients via telephone or email, and review of prescriptions. This does not include the 11 imaging reports doctors reviewed daily.
When a doctor refers a patient to a specialist, his work doesn't end there. Physicians reviewed almost 14 consultation reports each day, many of which require adjustments to medication or calls to patients to reinforce the specialist's recommendation.
Phone calls take up a large chunk of a physician's work day. Queries from patients, administrative questions, discussions with specialists, interpretation of test results, etc. contributed to over 23 phone calls directed to physicians each day.
Physicians sent almost 17 emails each day. Most (59 percent) were interpretations of test results, but administrative problems and responses to patients comprise a large chunk as well.
Physicians processed 12 prescription refills each day, not including prescriptions handled during office visits.
Last but not least, physicians spend 15 to 31 hours each week seeing patients in the exam room. Considering physicians in the Greenhouse Internists practice worked an average of 50 to 60 hours per week, only about half of their time was spent with patients.