Healthcare’s paperwork problem is becoming a burden, and for a number of reasons.

Those outside of the healthcare industry might think that doctors and nurses spend their entire day in face-to-face interactions with patients.

However, a large portion of their day is actually spent dealing with that same problem that plagues other companies—paperwork. This means that patients get less time with their doctors, and doctors are able to see fewer patients.

Here are just a few of the statistics surrounding paperwork in the healthcare industry and how it can affect patient care.


How Much Time?

On average, a doctor in the United States will spend 16.6% of his or her time on non-patient-related paperwork. That adds up to about 9 hours per week, and it doesn’t even include things like patient charts and medical records—that just refers to things like insurance claims and other such administrative documents.

This is among the reasons EMRs and EHRs are becoming a huge burden in the healthcare industry: although they culminate in a digital environment, the clunky-ness and lack of usability they impose on healthcare practitioners is cause for concern.

Healthcare’s paperwork problem is one of the main reasons bureaucratization has seeped into the well-intentioned aspects of the world’s most noble industry.

What does this translate to in dollars? In 2014, the estimated cost of physician time spent on administrative paperwork was an astonishing $102 billion!

Doctors in certain specialties may spend more or less time on paperwork. The top 4 specialties that spend the most time on paperwork are as follows:

  • Psychiatrists—20.3%
  • Internists—17.3%
  • General practitioners—17.3%
  • Pediatricians—14.1%

However, hospital administrators have discovered this issue, and many are incentivizing use of document management systems. For example, human resources professional, Dr. Chris Beebe, is an eFileCabinet user and recently received AIIM’s World Paper-Free Day Paper Free Hero designation.

What’s more, psychiatrists, which comprise the bulk of the percentage above, can simplify compliance and HIPAA adherence through eFileCabinet’s newest product, eFileCabinet Express–for single person offices.

Let’s break that down another way, based on the kind of care that the patient is receiving. If you were to go to the ER and your treatment took an hour, the hospital staff would have to spend another full hour doing the paperwork for your visit. Healthcare’s paperwork problem is not these practitioners’ fault so much as it is a byproduct of hospital administration bureaucracy.

For every hour of surgery or inpatient care you receive, physicians spend 36 minutes on paperwork. Skilled nursing care requires 30 minutes of paperwork for every hour of care given to a patient. Not even home healthcare is exempt. For every hour of medical care you receive in your home, there are 48 minutes of paperwork to do.


What’s the Effect of Healthcare’s Paperwork Problem?

The amount of time spent on paperwork has numerous effects on both medical professionals and the patients they treat. Obviously, if a doctor is overwhelmed by paperwork, they are unable to see as many patients in a day, and they can’t spend as much time with each patient as they might otherwise. This reduces the quality of care that the patient receives.

The paperwork also has a negative effect on the doctors themselves. According to one study, the more time a physician spends on paperwork, the less satisfied they are with their jobs.

Or, to put it in simpler terms, less paperwork makes for happier doctors, which can also lead to better interactions with patients and a more satisfactory doctor-patient relationship.

Resolving issues in M-Health is also possible through document management. The Bring Your Own Device phenomenon (BYOD) pervades the healthcare industry, and without the proper tools in place on consumer devices like Macs and mobile phones, clinics and hospitals run the risk of compromising HIPAA compliance in both technical safeguards and privacy safeguards.


What’s the Solution to Healthcare’s Paperwork Problem?

The simplest solution to this overwhelming amount of paperwork is to implement document management and the use of electronic health records over paper records.

One of the reasons paperwork is so embedded into healthcare practices is because medical providers are so concerned with the greater purpose of their profession (helping people) that they forget to think about the other factors that would simplify that part of the equation, but this is up to hospital administrators to change.

Another reason for the existence of this problem is the academic environment most clinicians have been immersed in in preparing for their professional lives. Academia, while well-intentioned, does not have a track record of scaling back on paper where needed.

Many practices have done this already, and they have seen some incredible results. 79% of them reported that their practice functioned more efficiently overall. For instance, healthcare practitioners must know they can solve the issues of their industry through technology that has the potential to serve as the industry’s lifeblood.

The amount of time saved was quite remarkable as well, with 82% reporting that they saved time by using electronic prescriptions, and 75% reporting that they received lab results more quickly. As an added bonus, 70% of the practices that implement electronic health records reported that the confidentiality of their data was improved by it.

And, of course, saving time translated into saving money for these practices as well. With reduced transcription costs and reduced filing, storage, and chart-pulling costs, these practices saw a great reduction in their spending. In fact, for large hospitals and clinics, implementing such a system can save as much as $59 million in 5 years.

On top of it all, clinics using these systems experienced reduced medical errors and improved patient health and quality of care provided. Not only does this also help to reduce wasted time and money in these clinics, but it leads to happier, healthier patients. Anything that culminates in health or happiness is a boon to the healthcare industry.

Check out this infographic for more stats on medical paperwork. If you need a guide in implementing electronic health records in your clinic, fill out the form on this page.