Physicians spend 785 hours each year dealing with the reporting of quality measures at an annual cost of more than $15.4 billion, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

In November 2104, researchers surveyed 394 physician practices in primary care, multispecialty, cardiology and orthopedics. On average, they found that practices spent 15.1 hours per week dealing with external quality measures. Physicians spent an average of 2.6 hours per week on quality measures; staff other than physicians spent 12.5 hours per physician per week.  As expected, primary care offices spent the most time of all physician specialties.

Using average salary data by specialty and for support staff, they calculated an average annual cost per physician of $40,069. Extrapolating that figure for all internists, family practitioners, cardiologists and orthopedists, the total annual cost estimate was $15.4 billion.

“There is much to gain from quality measurement, but the current system is far from being efficient and contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures,” the researchers said.

They noted that 81 percent of practices say they spent more or much more effort on quality compared to three years ago, but only 27 percent say that the current measures were moderately or very representative of quality of care.

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