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What Do Primary Care Providers Do All Day?

Published April 29, 2010 10:53 AM by Jill Rollet
A primary care practice of five physicians in Philadelphia set out to count all that "invisible" work that doesn't get reimbursed. With the help of their electronic health record, they counted phone calls, prescription refills, e-mail messages, and lab, imaging and consultation reports.

One interesting upshot of the study is that the practice redefined the job description of "full-time physician" to be a provider who offers 24 scheduled visit hours per week. The practice's internal compensation system now counts phone calls and e-mailing in its productivity metric.

So, below is how the five physicians spent their time in 2008 with an active caseload of 8,440 patients. I imagine numbers for nurse practitioners in primary care are similar or that the proportion of "invisible" work is even higher for NPs.

  • 16,640 patient visits
  • 21,796 phone calls
  • 11,145 prescription refills
  • 15,499 e-mail messages
  • 17,974 lab report
  • 10,229 imaging reports
  • 12,822 consultation reports
Read Baron, RJ. What's Keeping Us So Busy in Primary Care? A Snapshot from One Practice. NEJM. 362:1632-1636.


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