Female physicians spend more time in EHR than male physicians, study says

More than 41 minutes per day in office could be factor in doctor burnout.

Female physicians spend more time working on electronic health records (EHR) than their male counterparts, in the office and out, according to an analysis published this year.

Researchers studied a potential gender gap between female and male physicians using EHR. The electronic records have positive effects, but also have been associated with physician burnout, said the research letter, “Gender Differences in Time Spent on Documentation and the Electronic Health Record in a Large Ambulatory Network,” published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Prior work has demonstrated higher rates of burnout among women physicians, so the researchers examined EHR use at a large, New England ambulatory practice network from February 2018 to December 2019.

The network had 124 female physicians and 194 male physicians, with 173 working as primary care doctors, 103 as medical specialists and 42 as surgical specialists. “Women physicians were younger, more represented in primary care specialties, and cared for significantly fewer patients per hour and month,” 185 patients, compared to 216 patients for male doctors, the study said.

Female physicians spent 41.4 minutes more in EHR time per day than men, according to data adjusted to calculate the rate per eight hours of scheduled patient time.

They spent 31 minutes more per day on clinical documentation than male physicians, and more than nine minutes more per day on EHR outside scheduled work hours than male physicians, the study said.

“Our findings provide a potential mechanism for the gender gap in burnout, which has implications for workforce mental health and physician retention,” said the study with corresponding author Lisa S. Rotenstein, MD, MBA, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They suggest that women physicians may benefit from policy changes, workflows, and technologies that reduce documentation burden, including scribes, team documentation, and artificial intelligence-powered solutions,” and future studies should examine interventions that reduce documentation burdens.

The study was limited by using data from a single, nonteaching practice network, and availability of data only from prior to 2019.