Doctors spend 3-times more time on computers than with patients

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For every hour spent with patients, internal medicine doctors spent an average of five hours on other tasks.

Today’s hospital doctors spend three-times as much time using computers as they do with patients, Swiss figures suggest.

The results of a time and motion study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveal that internal medicine doctors at a Swiss teaching hospital spent most of their time at work on activities that were not directly related to patient care.

Trained observers used a tablet-based application to record and categorise 22 job-related activities for 36 internal medicine residents over a total of 696.7 hours. They found that for every hour spent with patients, the residents spent an average of five hours on other tasks. About half of the working day was spent on a computer. Time spent using a computer was scattered throughout the day, with the heaviest use after 6 pm.

The structure of the average workday for a hospital doctor has changed dramatically in recent decades, with the introduction of legislation limiting hours worked per week, the wide implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs), and a growing volume of clinical data and administrative tasks.

The authors of this study say organisational changes and EMR improvements are required to increase efficiency.

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