Better EHRs could help boost doc time at patient bedsides

Just like everybody else, doctors spend too much time behind computers--and not enough time at patients' bedsides--according to new research from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Closely following first-year residents at Baltimore's two academic medical centers, the study found that medical interns spend 12 percent of their time examining and talking to patients, and more than 40 percent of their time behind a computer. Researchers said they thought better electronic health records could help reduce time looking for patient histories.

"One of the most important learning opportunities in residency is direct interaction with patients," Lauren Block, a clinical fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study, said in an announcement. "Spending an average of eight minutes a day with each patient just doesn't seem like enough time to me."

The researchers observed 29 internal medicine interns at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center for three weeks in January 2012, for a total of 873 hours. An iPod Touch app was used to account for every minute of each intern's shift.

According to the study, the interns spent 64 percent of their time on paperwork, researching patient histories and placing orders; 15 percent on educational activities, like rounds; and 9 percent on miscellaneous tasks. Questions in the study included what the ideal time spent at the bedside was for interns, and if they make up the lost time later in their studies.

Senior study author Leonard Feldman called the 12 percent figure for face-to-face time with patients "shockingly low."

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the Johns Hopkins Medicine announcement

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