Studies have found that many doctors click thousands of times in the EMR each day. Eliminating just a few clicks or keystrokes can reduce EMR time by hours each week. 

A growing problem

The average US doctor spends over 15 hours per week on paperwork and administration. That’s up from fewer than 10 hours per week in 2014.

Physicians spend most of their admin time capturing information about patient visits in the electronic medical record (EMR). Unsurprisingly, this high documentation load doesn’t improve physicians’ professional satisfaction; if anything, it’s a leading cause of burnout

One way to reduce EHR time is to improve your documentation workflow. Complete most documentation in the room, leverage your team members’ skills, and let go of perfectionism. 

But you’ll also want to optimize how you use your EMR. That starts with understanding the impact of every click and keystroke. 

Small things add up

What are the most common tasks you perform in your EMR? What do you repeatedly do every day? 

Let’s imagine you’re seeing COVID patients in an outpatient setting. After each visit, you attach patient literature to the chart. 

Attaching the literature might take four clicks: you open the appropriate EMR section, open the browser window, find the literature, and click “Attach.” You might also need to find the correct literature each time or add a short note for the patient. So let’s say the whole process takes 30 seconds. 

If you do this for 20 patients a day, those 30 seconds become 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes equal 50 minutes a week, and those 50 minutes a week equal 40 hours each year.

Reducing even a few clicks per visit can make a big difference. Assuming you see 20 patients a day 50 weeks a year, here’s the real impact of reducing documentation time:

  • Saving 5 seconds per visit saves 7 hours a year
  • Saving 15 seconds per visit saves 20 hours a year
  • Saving 30 seconds per visit saves 41 hours a year

A 30-second task, repeated many times a day, consumes an entire work week each year. Wouldn’t you rather spend that week on vacation with your family?

How to reduce EMR time with fewer clicks

When you realize how clicks and keystrokes add up, it starts making sense to invest the upfront time to optimize your EMR. It might take you an hour to learn and memorize a new shortcut. But eliminating a few clicks here and there can save you hours each week. 

A productivity analysis of a community hospital emergency department found that physicians averaged nearly 4,000 EMR clicks during a busy 10-hour shift. So we know there’s room for improvement. 

You can reduce EMR time by investigating your EMR’s settings focusing on clicks and keystrokes. Try these steps: 

  1. Write down the three tasks you complete most often in the EMR.
  2. Write down the actions you take to complete each task. Notice how many clicks each task takes. 
  3. Investigate more efficient alternatives. 

Some EMRs have shortcuts you can learn. Others offer keystrokes for common tasks. Many provide ways to customize your EMR layout, so your most common windows are just a single click away. 

Search the internet or your vendor’s help documentation to discover faster alternatives. Contact your vendor or ask your colleagues to share tips and shortcuts if you need additional support. 

The time you invest up front will more than pay off in the long run. As James Clear writes in Atomic Habits:

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

Case study: Mobius MD

Here at Mobius, our mission is to get doctors home on time. We accomplish that by designing software that saves physicians time. With every new product or software update, the Mobius team asks: “Is there a faster, more intuitive way?”

When Apple released Widgets, Mobius built the iOS Memo Widget so that physicians can start a dictation from their smartphone home screen with just one tap. Without the widget, it takes much longer. Users have to find the app, open the app, type a PIN, tap on “Memos,” tap “Add New,” and then tap again to start dictating.

Now, the world’s most flexible medical dictation solution is just one tap from your home screen. 

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