Hospital workers spending too much time on Facebook

No one is immune to spending too much time on Facebook, not even hospital workers in the emergency department.

In a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers who set out to determine the impact personal Internet use has on acute clinical settings discovered that Facebook took up a substantial amount of staff time in an observation period.

For the study, researchers from the University of Florida analyzed anonymous network utilization records for 68 workstations in the ED at one academic medical center for 15 days. They then compared that data to ED work index data from hospital information systems.

Over the 15 day-period, healthcare workers spent 72.5 hours browsing Facebook, visiting the social networking site 9,369 times, spending 12 minutes per hour on the site. Time of day accounted for differences in time spent on Facebook, with research revealing a positive correlation between ED work index data scores and time spent on the site. Surprisingly enough, hospital workers actually used Facebook more as patient volume grew in the ED.

The researchers suggested that future studies should examine if healthcare workers would do better to only use Facebook in break rooms or other non-work areas.

Facebook, when used correctly, doesn't simply serve as a social networking platform. For instance, a study published in February in the American Journal of Medical Quality found that the number of "likes" for a hospital's page could serve as an indicator of hospital quality and satisfaction.

In fact, use of social media is part of a shift in focus by healthcare organizations in their care delivery, according to an editorial in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Overall, however, the study's authors said they think that hospital workers would be better off "liking" and posting status updates a little less.

"Online social networking is an important and worthwhile activity to engage friends, family, and acquaintances, but as with other distractions, electronic or not, should be used cautiously in the workplace," they said. "[T]his level of Facebook use is unacceptably high in clinical spaces, and as such, computer workstations in patient-care space should limit access to online social networking and other forms of entertainment."

To learn more:
- read the JMIR study

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Facebook 'likes' could track, map obesity
Dos and don'ts for engaging patients in social media
Facebook friending debate continues
Violating patient privacy: A social media 'never event'

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