Medical Practice

Truthfully, the Physician Shortage Doesn’t Exist!


Conclusion: For every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly 2 additional hours is spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day. Outside office hours, physicians spend another 1 to 2 hours of personal time each night doing additional computer and other clerical work. (Sinsky et al, 2016)

If we only had the tools and the administrative support that just about every one of us has been asking for, there wouldn’t be a doctor shortage.

The quote here is from 7 years ago and things have gotten even worse since then.

Major league baseball players don’t handle the scoring and the statistics of their games. They just play ball.

Somehow, when the practice of medicine became a corporate and government business, more data was needed in order to measure productivity and quality (or at least compliance with guidelines). And somehow, for reasons I don’t completely understand and most definitely don’t agree with, the doctors were asked not only to continue treating our patients, but also to more than double our workload by documenting more things than we ourselves actually needed in order to care for our patients. Even though we were therefore becoming data collectors for research, public health and public policy, we were not given either the tools or the time to make this possible – at least not without shortchanging our patients or burning ourselves out.

We didn’t sign up to do all this, we signed up to care for our patients. And we were given awkward tools to work with that in many ways have made it harder to document and share with our colleagues what our clinical impressions and thinking are.

It takes a lot of years to become a doctor, and sometimes many more years to become a good one. I don’t know whose harebrained idea it was to require us to do all the data entry to serve those other purposes that were never part of practicing medicine before. It has been said that seeing two more patients per day will pay for an assistant/scribe or whatever is needed.

So… Why is this not happening? In my own personal experience, we survived 15 minute visits with a previous EMR. With our new one (Epic, the probable industry leader), that is simply not possible. What’s wrong with this picture?

With clerical support, there wouldn’t be a doctor shortage and the burnout epidemic would not have the proportions it now has.

Let the doctors do the doctoring and leave the bookkeeping to someone else, at least until the EMR technology catches up and speeds us up instead of slowing us down!

Hans Duvefelt is a family physician, author, and creator of “A Country Doctor Writes.”

1 reply »

  1. There never was a doctor shortage. In fact we’re headed for a glut. And we will be suffering much more then, believe you me. New residency programs are opening up every day as are mediocre DO schools with half baked residency candidates that have never touched a patient. Residency programs are not training programs anymore. They have a quota of intellectually disabled, pampered entitled babies they need to let in. Residents get mandatory nappy time and barely any call, so they need more of them to fill in the gap in patient care. Female residents get pregnant every year and get to graduate with no extra time if they cry hard enough. This will eventually overload the systems with mediocre physicians. Which is, of course, every hospital system’s moist dream because they can underpay us and mistreat us even more! As long as there is more competition.