Estimating Time Physicians and Other Healthcare Workers Spend with Patients in an Intensive Care Unit Using a Sensor Network

Article: Estimating Time Physicians and Other Healthcare Workers Spend with Patients in an Intensive Care Unit Using a Sensor Network

Authors: Rachel Butler MD, Mauricio Monsalve PhD, Geb W. Thomas PhD, Ted Herman PhD, Alberto M. Segre PhD, Philip M. Polgreen MD, MPH, Manish Suneja MD

Journal: Am J Med. 2018 Apr 9. pii: S0002-9343(18)30296-1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2018.03.015. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND: Time and motion studies have been used to investigate how much time various healthcare professionals spend with patients as opposed to performing other tasks. However, the majority of such studies are done in outpatient settings, and rely on surveys (which are subject to recall bias) or human observers (which are subject to observation bias). Our goal was to accurately measure the time physicians, nurses, and critical support staff in a medical intensive care unit spend in direct patient contact using a novel method that does not rely on self-report or human observers.

METHODS: We used a network of stationary and wearable mote-based sensors to electronically record location and contacts among healthcare workers and patients under their care in a 20-bed intensive care unit for a 10-day period covering both day and night shifts. Location and contact data were used to classify the type of task being performed by healthcare workers.

RESULTS: For physicians, 14.73% (17.96%) of their time in the unit during the day shift (night shift) was spent in patient rooms, compared to 40.63% (30.09%) spent in the physician work room; the remaining 44.64% (51.95%) of their time was spent elsewhere. For nurses, 32.97% (32.85%) of their time on unit was spent in patient rooms, with an additional 11.34% (11.79%) spent just outside patient rooms. They spent 11.58% (13.16%) of their time at the nurses’ station and 23.89% (24.34%) elsewhere in the unit. From a patient’s perspective, we found that care times, defined as time with at least one healthcare worker of a designated type in their ICU room, were distributed as follows: 13.11% (9.90%) with physicians, 86.14% (88.15%) with nurses, and 8.14% (7.52%) with critical support staff (e.g., respiratory therapists, pharmacists).

CONCLUSIONS: Physicians, nurses, and critical support staff spend very little of their time in direct patient contact in an intensive care unit setting, similar to reported observations in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Not surprisingly, nurses spend far more time with patients than physicians. Additionally, physicians spend more than twice as much time in the physician work room (where electronic medical record review and documentation occurs) than the time they spend with all of their patients combined.

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