Time and money: Quality reporting comes with a big price tag for physicians

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 - Time is Money

Results from a national survey of U.S. healthcare practices show that physicians and their staff spend more than $15.4 billion annually—and nearly 800 hours per doctor—on external reporting of quality measures.

Published online in the journal Health Affairs, the study surveyed nearly 400 general internists, family physicians, cardiologists and orthopedists, revealing an average time commitment of 15 hours per week per physician spent on myriad quality reporting tasks, including specification tracking, data collection processes, and the collection and transmission of data.

“The average physician spent 2.6 hours per week (enough time to care for approximately nine additional patients) dealing with quality measures; staff other than physicians spent 12.5 hours per physician per week dealing with quality measures,” wrote lead author Lawrence Casalino, MD, PhD, and his colleagues from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “The per physician time spent by physicians and staff translates to an average cost of $40,069 per physician per year, or a combined total of $15.4 billion annually.”

The survey also revealed that 81 percent of the healthcare practices studied reported an increase in the amount of effort required to report on quality measures in the past three years, with 46 percent categorizing external quality reporting of similar measures as a “significant burden” in their practices.

“There is much to gain from quality measurement, but the current system is far from being efficient and contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures,” wrote Casalino et al. “Increasing efforts to reduce the number of measures and to standardize their use across external entities are being made … Our data suggest that U.S. health care leaders should make these efforts a priority.”