Association Between Electronic Health Record Time and Quality of Care Metrics in Primary Care

JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Oct 3;5(10):e2237086. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.37086.

Abstract

Importance: Physicians across the US spend substantial time working in the electronic health record (EHR), with primary care physicians (PCPs) spending the most time. The association between EHR time and ambulatory care quality outcomes is unclear.

Objective: To characterize measures of EHR use and ambulatory care quality performance among PCPs.

Design, setting, and participants: A cross-sectional study of PCPs with longitudinal patient panels using a single EHR vendor was conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital during calendar year 2021.

Exposures: Independent variables included PCPs demographic and practice characteristics and EHR time measures (PCP-level mean of daily total EHR time, after-hours time, time from 5:30 pm to 7:00 am and time on weekends, and daily EHR time on notes, sending and receiving patient, staff, results, prescription, or system messages [in-basket], and clinical review).

Main outcomes and measures: Outcome variables were ambulatory quality measures (year-end, PCP panel-level achievement of targets for hemoglobin A1c level control, lipid management, hypertension control, diabetes screening, and breast cancer screening).

Results: The sample included 291 physicians (174 [59.8%] women). Median panel size was 829 (IQR, 476-1157) patients and mean (SD) clinical full-time equivalent was 0.54 (0.27). The PCPs spent a mean (SD) of 145.9 (64.6) daily minutes on the EHR. There were significant associations between EHR time and panel-level achievement of hemoglobin A1c control, hypertension control, and breast cancer screening targets. In adjusted analyses, each additional 15 minutes of total daily EHR time was associated with 0.58 (95% CI, 0.32-0.84) percentage point greater panel-level hemoglobin A1c control, 0.52 (95% CI, 0.33-0.71) percentage point greater hypertension control, and 0.28 (95% CI, 0.05-0.52) higher breast cancer screening rates. Each daily additional 15 minutes of in-basket time was associated with 2.26 (95% CI, 1.05-3.48) greater panel-wide hemoglobin A1c control, 1.65 (95% CI, 0.83-2.47) percentage point greater hypertension control, and 1.26 (95% CI, 0.51-2.02) percentage point higher breast cancer screening rates. Associations were largely concentrated among PCPs with 0.5 clinical full-time equivalent or less. There were no associations between EHR use metrics and diabetes screening or lipid management in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Conclusions and relevance: This cross-sectional study found an association between EHR time and some measures of ambulatory care quality. Although increased EHR time is associated with burnout, it may represent a level of thoroughness or communication that enhances certain outcomes. It may be useful for future studies to characterize payment models, workflows, and technologies that enable high-quality ambulatory care delivery while minimizing EHR burden.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Lipids
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care

Substances

  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Lipids