Dramatic Drop in Idaho Primary Care Physicians' Clinical Hours


The authors aren't exactly sure of the reasons, but a new study indicates a dramatic decline in work hours by primary care physicians in Idaho.

The report, (JAMA, Oct 6, "Changes in Idaho Primary Care Physician Clinical Work Hours, 1996-2009) excluded staff at the Boise Veterans hospital. The authors estimated that weekly clinical work hours dropped from 47.7 to 38.9 at the end of the study. While the hours declined, patient wait times increased. For new patients, waits increased from 10.1 days to 12.1 days, while established patients waits increased from 6.4 days to 7.0 days.

The study was authored by Dr. Andrew Wilper and Dr. William Weppner of Boise and Dr. C. Scott Smith, Professor of Medicine at the Univversity of Washington School of Medicine.

"We're not sure of the exact reasons for the drop in clinic hours by physicians," Dr. Wilper told Citydesk. "But the most likely reason is the increasing demands of administrative work. In addition, it was recently reported that private care physicians are spending as many as 3.5 hours each week talking with private insurance companies over claims and billing issues."

"My suspicion is that PCPs are getting caught up in increasing amounts of administrative work, reducing available clinical resources and driving up patient waits," echoed Dr. Smith.