"People often say, what can we do to get physicians to listen to their patients for longer? Actually, the question is, why does the average physician interrupt his patient after only 18 seconds? Because most of the information they're providing is not necessary."
Medical Record Documentation 'Primarily for Billing'
In his work with 2,000 emergency physicians, Tom has observed that the emergency physician looking at a patient's chief complaint knows 95 percent of the time, within 5 to 10 seconds, "what he is going to do with that patient. The rest of the time is going back and putting in place the documentation and studies that are required for him to do what he actually knew he wanted to do in the first ten seconds."
According to Tom, "medical record documentation is primarily for billing and to have a record in the rare event that there's a risk case." Doctors didn't insist on all this documentation, he says. "We didn't put them in place. The federal government did, and every insurance company copies them."
Fear of litigation is the real driver for all this documentation, Tom insists. But for an emergency physician, the chances of being sued are one in 25,000 cases, he says. "You might not be so willing to spend the time that it takes [documenting] for something that's a pretty rare event," he continued.