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Wednesday Feb 06, 2019

How to calculate the value of team documentation

Team-based documentation is often presented as a way to reduce administrative headaches, improve patient care, and mitigate some of the factors that contribute to physician burnout. But did you know it can also help your bottom line?

In this care model, staff assist the physician in real time during a patient visit by documenting notes, orders, and referrals and queuing up prescriptions. This allows the physician to spend more face-to-face time with the patient and less time outside the visit or after-hours working on documentation. That extra time has value, and here’s how to calculate it.

First, determine how many minutes you work annually, using this equation:

Weeks worked per year X Days worked per week X Hours worked per day X 60 minutes

For example, if you have a five-day, 40-hour work week for 48 weeks a year, you work 115,200 minutes annually.

Next, calculate your salary per minute. You can find that by dividing your annual salary by the number of minutes you work annually. In this example, let’s say you have an annual salary of $200,000. Divided by the above number of minutes worked annually, you make $1.74 per minute.

Now, calculate how many minutes you spend on documentation annually. Here’s the equation:

Weeks worked per year X Days worked per week X Visits per day X Minutes of documentation per visit

Obviously, this differs widely between practices and individual physicians, but for our example let’s say you see 20 patients per day and each patient generates 10 minutes of you filling out documentation or otherwise interacting with your electronic health record. Plugged into the equation, that means you spend 48,000 minutes per year on patient documentation (or 200 minutes a day).

Finally, you need to calculate the annual cost of your documentation time. The equation:

Documentation minutes per year X Physician salary per minute

For our example, the 48,000 minutes of documentation multiplied by your $1.74 salary per minute equals an annual documentation cost of $83,520.

Team documentation can significantly reduce the amount of time you, as a physician, spend on paperwork. Once again, different practices will see different results, but if team documentation reduced your documentation burden by half to 24,000 minutes a year, or 100 minutes a day (the equivalent of $41,760 per year), you could allocate the time saved to additional patient visits, longer visits with current patients, alternative visits or new clinical services, or less time in the office.

It’s not just theoretical cost savings either. Freed-up physician time can help increase revenue with more patient visits. To calculate how many additional patients you can see each day, take the 100 minutes a day you previously would have spent on documentation and divide it by the 20 minutes it takes a physician to see a patient (15 minutes for the face-to-face visit plus 5 minutes administrative duties).

This result is being able to see five additional patients a day. Adding just two extra patient visits per day can cover the cost of hiring an additional medical assistant.

In reality, primary care physicians see far more than 20 patients per day, so the administrative time required to support their patient load often happens on the evenings and weekends. This contributes to burnout, decreased quality of care, and physician turnover. Team documentation may be a solution for your practice, and using these calculations, adjusted for your practice’s actual experience, can help persuade your fellow physicians and practice managers to try it out.

For more information, see these FPM articles on team documentation.  Or try out these AAFP TIPS online learning courses on team documentation, which are free to AAFP members.

– Kate Freeman, Quality Improvement Strategist for the American Academy of Family Physicians

Posted at 11:15AM Feb 06, 2019 by Kate Freeman

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The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FPM or the AAFP. Some payers may not agree with the advice given. This is not a substitute for current CPT and ICD-9 manuals and payer policies. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.

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