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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Why Do We Call it “Admin Time”?

Updated: May 13

Are you a clinician who uses an EMR?

Do you spend hours each day hand typing progress notes, entering orders, looking up diagnostic and procedure codes?

And/or do you spend hours each day hassling with insurance companies over prior authorization?

Studies show that physicians spend one-half to two-thirds of their time on such tasks. If you’re lucky, your organization gives you some extra time to do this work. Often, this is in the form of blocked time in your regular schedule. (If you are on a production compensation plan, it’s not actually compensated time, but that is the topic for another blog post.)

Most organizations that provide this “extra time” call it “Admin time”. I don’t know why we accept this label.

Healthcare Administrative Work Definition

According to the Cambridge dictionary, administrative work is defined as “the activities that are done in order to plan, organize and run a business, school or other institution.”

On the other hand, clerical work is defined by activities such as:

  • Take and filter calls

  • File documents

  • Perform searches and provide information

  • Answer mail

  • Take notes during meetings, then write up summaries

  • Write, lay out and update documents

Physician Clerical Time or Admin Work?

The work clinicians do during “admin time” sounds a lot more like clerical work than administrative work.

If we were to be honest, we would call this time what it is – clerical time. There is nothing wrong with doing clerical work, per se.

However, when organizations expect their clinicians, with the most valuable skillsets and years of training, to do work that people with much less training can do for lower compensation, it hurts both the clinicians and the organization.

Do we call it admin time to make ourselves feel better, as if we are doing the higher-level work of planning, organizing, and running a business that our training and experience is better suited for?

Or do we call it admin time to hide the fact that we are doing low-level data entry work?

Executives in most organizations do administrative work and have clerical staff who do clerical work.

How would it change things for you and your team if you called this time “clerical time” rather than “admin time”?

My hope is that it would help leaders and clinicians alike to:

  • realize the waste involved in physicians doing work someone with less training can do,

  • spur them to provide physicians with more help, and

  • free physicians up to do more of what we do best.

Providing clerical staff to do clerical work would:

  • Make physicians’ lives more balanced between personal and professional time,

  • Create the space for more focus, and potentially more productivity, while on the job, and

  • Ultimately lead to greater satisfaction for, and less turnover of physicians.

What do you think?

Do you have admin time?

Do you really do administrative work during that time?

If not, would it be worth relabeling that time to represent what you are really doing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment or email me here.

More from Dr. Paul DeChant, MD


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