After observing first-hand the workflow at physicians' offices and interviews with clinicians, Shipman and co-author Christine A. Sinsky, MD, a general internist at Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans in Dubuque, IA, estimated that primary care physicians waste on average about 30 minutes each day, and nurses waste 60 minutes per physician per day, on prescription renewal tasks that policy changes could substantially reduce.
The two physicians believe that eliminating 30 minutes of wasted time each day could translate into 30–40 million more primary care visits available each year without a single additional provider.
"Other efforts to overcome the primary care shortage, by training more, losing fewer, or finding someone else, they all have their place but in and of themselves those are relatively inefficient strategies," Shipman says. "Training more physicians takes a long time and a lot of resources and with current trends in terms of specialty choice it may not yield the workforce we most need."
"Losing fewer physicians has a lot of potential if we change the model of practice to address burnout. But driving inefficiencies out of practice will have a secondary effect on that… The non-physician clinicians such as nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants have an important role, but that too requires training and cost of training and bringing more people in when we can do a lot more with the people we have if we just look critically at how to root out even some of these inefficiencies on a widespread basis."