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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2016 May;80(5):742-5; discussion 745-7. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000000986.

The painful truth: The documentation burden of a trauma surgeon.

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From the Division of Trauma, Critical Care, Burns, and Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio.



Implementation of the electronic medical record (EMR) has introduced several unintended consequences, including increased documentation demands. The purpose of this study was to define the EMR documentation burden and its economic impact at a busy regional Level I trauma center, comparing attending trauma surgeons (TSs) with orthopedic surgeons (OSs), and neurosurgeons (NSs).


The EMR was queried to determine the number of attending documentation entries during 2014 for TS, OS, and NS. The eight TSs were then surveyed to estimate the time it took to write each note type, and this was used to calculate the total time needed for documentation. The hospital financial database was queried for 2014 hospital charges and work relative value units (WRVUs) for TSs, OSs, and NSs to generate a comparison. The charges and WRVUs were broken down into those generated from nonprocedural documentation and procedures.


During 2014, there were 5,864 trauma activations with 3,111 patient admissions. The attending TSs wrote a total of 26,455 documentation entries. Of these notes, 92% were from inpatients, and 74% were progress notes. Documentation time estimates for TSs demonstrated that it took 1,760.5 hours or 73.3 twenty-four-hour days to complete these 26,455 notes. Financial data revealed that 44% of the TS charges were directly related to nonprocedural documentation, compared with 14% for OSs and 7% for NSs. Evaluation of WRVUs demonstrated that 55% of the TS WRVUs were directly related to nonprocedural documentation, compared with 28% for OSs and 19% for NSs.


The EMR has introduced a significant documentation burden to the busy TSs. This documentation burden is critical for defining hospital charges and WRVUs, and it differs from that of OSs and NSs. Workflow changes, such as the introduction of scribes, may lessen the documentation burden and improve hospital charges and WRVUs of the TSs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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