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InCrowd Survey: Despite Mounting Documentation Pressures, Cardiologists Maintain High Patient Volumes
By Sarah Mayer

InCrowd’s recent studies on the sources of physician burnout revealed primary care physicians and emergency medicine specialists alike feel extreme pressures to see more patients over shorter periods while managing a vast amount of electronic medical records (EMR) and other paperwork. Aware that these stresses may exist in other specialties, InCrowd decided to focus on cardiologists as specialists in increasing demand. Our microsurvey tool asked 150 cardiologists, averaging 21 years in practice, about their patient volumes, hours, and paperwork load.  

Documentation Concerns
Cardiologists reported frustrations with their tremendous administrative responsibilities. 30% said they wanted to put less time into completing their electronic medical records (EMR) and other paperwork, a finding consistent with our burnout surveys of primary care and emergency room physicians. “I could actually see more patients if I spent less time with EMR,” stated another cardiologist from Washington with 24 years in practice. Cardiologists are forced to spend less time with each patient, in part, to allow time for documentation between patients or at the end of the day.

This paperwork also affects the quality of the visits specialists are having with their patients. One cardiologist mentioned his desire “to be free to spend as much time [with patients] as needed, and not be pressured by the accompanying workload”. The few minutes that cardiologists are able to spend with their patients, electronic paperwork takes attention directly away from the patients themselves.

Improving Patient Interactions
When asked what they would like to change about their patient interactions, 45% of cardiologists said they would like to spend more time with patients. Verbatim reports indicate that this additional time would be spent on patient education, thorough patient assessments and answering patient questions. 71% of these specialists spend approximately 15 minutes with each patient.

Taking all of this into account, it is interesting to note that 70% of these specialists reported satisfaction with their current patient loads. “I’m very busy and productive, efficient and profitable,” explains one cardiologist from Massachusetts with 27 years of experience.

Large Patient Loads
Almost a third of respondents see between 300-400 patients monthly. One common misperception is that specialists of this caliber can decide how many patients they want to see and when. However, 40% of these specialists stated that the number of patients they see is primarily determined by their office hours. Physician preference was listed as the top determinant by only 7% of respondents.

While some cardiologists are enjoying seeing more patients, it is still clear that the accompanying paperwork continues to frustrate many specialists. As one cardiologist from New York with 31 years in practice warned, “my workload is manageable, but I can’t handle much more.”  

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