Psychiatrists Spend 20% of Their Time on Administrative Tasks

HealthDay News — About 16.6% of doctors’ working hours are spent on administrative work, according to a study published recently in the International Journal of Health Services.

Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, and David U. Himmelstein, MD, from City University in New York City, quantified the time U.S. physicians spend on administrative tasks. Data were obtained from a nationally representative survey involving 4,720 U.S. physicians working 20 hours per week or more in direct patient care.

The researchers found that doctors spent an average of 8.7 hours per week (16.6% of working hours) on administration. Psychiatrists (20.3%), internists (17.3%), and family/general practitioners (17.3%) spent the highest proportion of their time on administration, while pediatricians spent the least proportion of their professional time (14.1%).

More time was spent on administration by doctors in large practices, those in hospital-owned practices, and those with financial incentives to reduce services. A greater administrative burden was seen in association with more extensive use of electronic medical records. Even after controlling for income and other confounders, doctors spending more time on administration had lower career satisfaction.

“Current trends in U.S. health policy — a shift to employment in large practices, the implementation of electronic medical records, and the increasing prevalence of financial risk sharing — are likely to increase doctors’ paperwork burdens and may decrease their career satisfaction,” the authors write.


  1. Woolhandler S and Himmelstein DU. Int J Health Serv. 2014; 10.2190/HS.44.4.a.