Female clinicians spend more time with patients and earn less because of it, study shows

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“We see this kind of rippling out across the way that we see practice patterns emerging, so when you spend more time with each patient, you’re probably collecting more information. Therefore, it’s going to take you longer to document that information,” Sweeney-Platt said.

The findings help explain why the average female physician earns an estimated $2 million less than a male physician over a 40-year career. The report also suggests employers should ease administrative burdens on clinicians while retaining high-quality medical records.

Transitioning to value-based payment models also could mitigate the pay gap by financially rewarding clinicians for quality outcomes rather than for treating high volumes of patients, Sweeney-Platt said.

“You take the pressure away to see more and more and more patients when you eliminate the penalty for seeing fewer patients,” Sweeney-Platt said. “You could speculate that it would minimize the gap between the earnings potential of female physicians and male physicians.”

Spending more time on clinical documentation doesn’t necessarily translate to better health outcomes, but it does put pressure on EHR vendors to make it easier for clinicians to create comprehensive patient records.

“This type of research uncovers that there are big, structural issues that affect all clinicians, not just women,” Sweeney-Platt said.

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