Documenting or Operating: Where Is Time Spent in General Surgery Residency?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVE: The utilization of electronic health records (EHR) has become essential in the daily activities of physicians for documentation and as an information source. However, the amount of time spent by residents utilizing the EHR has not been thoroughly evaluated, particularly within surgical specialties. This study aims to analyze EHR usage by general surgery residents and to assess the association between this use and case volume at a single academic institution. DESIGN: For general surgery residents in clinical years (CY) 1-5, de-identified login and logout time data between September 2016 and June 2017 were retrospectively extracted from the Epic EHR (Verona, WI). A binary time series was created for each resident to indicate and track over time whether he or she was utilizing the EHR system. Comparisons between categorical variables were performed with Fisher's exact test. Continuous variables were compared using Wilcoxon rank sum test. Longitudinal linear mixed-effects models were used to assess the EHR usage among the surgery residents. The association between EHR time and the number of operative cases logged was evaluated with Pearson's correlation coefficient. SETTING: This study was performed by the Department of Surgery in conjunction with the Office of Graduate Medical Education at Duke University Health System. PARTICIPANTS: All active general surgery residents during the 2016-2017 academic year. RESULTS: Thirty-six general surgery residents (28 males, 8 females) spent a median of 2.4 hours per day and 23.7 hours per week using the EHR. CY2 had the highest median usage per week (28.9 hours), while CY3 had the lowest (16.7 hours) but no significant difference based on EHR usage was found among the analyzed CYs (p = 0.164). Residents spent significantly more time logged into the EHR during the week compared to weekends and during the day compared to nights (all p < 0.001). For the residency program as a whole, a median of 151.5 total work hours per day was dedicated to documentation. On average, interns on dedicated night rotations spent 7% of their login time outside regularly scheduled duty hours while interns on dedicated day rotations spent 27%. There was no overall correlation between monthly case logs and EHR usage (r = 0.06, p = 0.30); however, CY2 had a significant negative correlation (r = -0.2, p = 0.038). CONCLUSIONS: In the era of a maximum 80-hour work week, general surgery residents spend a substantial portion, at least 30%, of their time utilizing the EHR. One third of EHR usage by interns occurred outside the scheduled 12-hour shift, demonstrating the difficulties of completing paperwork as part of the scheduled work day. Additionally, the lack of correlation to case logs is likely due to an underestimation of the documentation burden associated with operating, which includes preparatory effort and operative notes. Ultimately, these quantitative EHR usage results will be correlated to burnout prior to implementing programs to improve efficiency and decrease the burden of charting.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cox, ML; Farjat, AE; Risoli, TJ; Peskoe, S; Goldstein, BA; Turner, DA; Migaly, J

Published Date

  • November 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 75 / 6

Start / End Page

  • e97 - e106

PubMed ID

  • 30522828

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1878-7452

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jsurg.2018.10.010


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States