Dr. Allen*: 90 Minutes a Day to Experience the Joy of Medicine

July 06, 2016
Heather Staples Lavoie, CSO, Geneia


At Geneia, we know the heart of healthcare transformation largely rests on the shoulders of physicians – and many have struggled with the added demands on their time.  After all, most became physicians to work directly with patients and create the kind of meaningful relationships that lead to improved health.

Yet quality patient time continues to erode as physicians’ administrative burdens increase. In a Geneia survey, 84 percent of physicians said the amount of quality time they can spend with patients has decreased in the past 10 years. Their comments were even more telling:

  • “The joy is interaction with people. The greatest detractor from this is the record keeping and quality data inputs that have mushroomed with EHR.”
  • “With so much time needed for documentation and coding and the need to see many patients in a small time period, there is not much time to actually enjoy treating a patient's condition and watching them improve over time.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) 2015 Practice Profile Survey found that physicians work on average 47.3 hours per week. That breaks down to:

  • 34 hours in direct, face-to-face patient care
  • 1.8 hours doing pre-authorizations
  • 7.7 hours for other non-face-to-face, patient care tasks
  • 3.8 hours on other non-clinical duties.

Nearly 30 percent of physician time is spent on responsibilities other than direct patient care.  As more physicians join accountable care organizations (ACOs) and participate in value-based reimbursement arrangements driven by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) – all of which mean physicians need to more closely track and manage their panel of patients -  it is quite possible that physician time with patients may decline more.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Jody Allen.  He’s a primary care physician who is one of nearly 100 physicians working in a multi-site practice that serves about one million patients.  He joined the practice a decade ago, just as the group was implementing its first electronic health record (EHR) – an experience that left Dr. Allen and many of his colleagues skeptical about the impact of technology on the practice of medicine.

Eighteen months ago, Dr. Allen’s practice implemented the Theon® advanced analytics and insights platform.  The practice found that neither the EHR nor the many systems provided by payers with whom they have accountable care and value-based arrangements were sufficient. Instead, the practice sought one solution that could readily and easily provide actionable information to improve the cost and quality of patient care.

At their fingertips, Dr. Allen and his colleagues had access to information and insights previously unavailable, even from special, ad-hoc reports, including:

  • A list of 10 patients with more than $100,000 in medical costs who had not been seen by their primary care physician in more than 12 months
  • One patient currently in the hospital who had 13 prior admissions as well as more than 200 specialty visits and 150 prescriptions
  • A list of patients discharged from the hospital in the past 10 days
  • Two physician offices within the practice with significantly higher MRI rates than its peers along with actionable information to remedy the situation.

In addition to having more visibility into patient populations and higher-need patients, the use of the Theon® platform by the physicians and every member of the patient care team supported the practice’s goal of having its nurse case managers, care coordinators, physician assistants, and medical assistants work to the top of their license.  More robust patient care teams had two primary benefits:

  1. The practice was able to better serve patients in a cost-effective manner by doing comprehensive pre-visit planning and maximizing the effectiveness of patient time with physicians, and
  2. The practice reduced the administrative burdens of Dr. Allen and the other physicians, which alleviated widespread frustration and created more time for patient interactions.

In the words of Dr. Allen, “For the first time in more than a decade, I no longer feel shackled to my computer screen and I have enough time for all of my patients on most days.  It took some time to fully realize the benefits of the Theon® platform and reengineer our practices and care teams, but once we did, I found that I had regained 90 minutes a day – and that’s meant that I’ve been able to once again feel the Joy of Medicine.”

*Dr. Allen’s experience is an illustrative example based upon the actual experience of a Geneia client. This information is provided for illustrative purposes only. Dr. Allen is fictional and not intended to represent any specific person. Any direct similarities to any real person are purely coincidental and unintentional. 


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