Where did the day go? - A time-motion study of hospitalists

Matthew D. Tipping, Victoria E. Forth, Kevin J. O'Leary, David M. Malkenson, David B. Magill, Kate Englert, Mark V. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Within the last decade hospitalists have become an integral part of inpatient care in the United States and now care for about half of all Medicare patients requiring hospitalization. However, little data exists describing hospitalist workflow and their activities in daily patient care. OBJECTIVE: To clarify how hospitalists spend their time and how patient volumes affect their workflow. DESIGN: Observers continuously shadowed each of 24 hospitalists for two complete shifts. Observations were recorded using a handheld computer device with customized data collection software. SETTING: Urban, tertiary care, academic medical center. RESULTS: Hospitalists spent 17% of their time on direct patient contact, and 64% on indirect patient care. For 16% of all time recorded, more than one activity was occurring simultaneously (i.e., multitasking). Professional development, personal time, and travel each accounted for about 6% of their time. Communication and electronic medical record (EMR) use, two components of indirect care, occupied 25% and 34% of recorded time respectively. Hospitalists with above average patient loads spent less time per patient communicating with others and working with the EMR than those hospitalists with below average patient loads, but reported delaying documentation until later in the evening or next day. Patient load did not change the amount of time hospitalists spent with each patient. CONCLUSIONS: Hospitalists spend more time reviewing the EMR and documenting in it, than directly with the patient. Multi-tasking occurred frequently and occupied a significant portion of each shift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-328
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hospital Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Hospitalists
  • Quality improvement
  • Time-motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Leadership and Management
  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Health Policy
  • Care Planning
  • Assessment and Diagnosis


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