KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Interruptions In ER May Harm Patient Care, Researchers Find

CNN: "Interruptions in the emergency room may exact an unhealthy toll on patient care, a group of Australian researchers reported Thursday. The researchers, from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, found that interruptions led emergency department doctors to spend less time on the tasks they were working on and, in nearly a fifth of cases, to give up on the task altogether. The researchers carried out a time-and-motion study in the emergency department of a 400-bed teaching hospital, observing 40 doctors for more than 210 hours. They found that each doctor was typically interrupted 6.6 times per hour; 11 percent of all tasks were interrupted, 3.3 percent of them more than once. They calculated time on task and found that physicians spent less time on interrupted tasks than on uninterrupted tasks. In addition, doctors were multitasking 12.8 percent of the time." The study was published in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care. "Other studies have shown that interruptions can result in lapses of attention, memory or perception, they wrote" (Watkins, 5/12). 

HealthDay News/Businessweek: "Until now, the researchers say, no one has analyzed what those interruptions actually mean for doctors on the job. ... Perhaps the doctors finish their tasks quicker to make up for the time lost due to the interruption, the researchers said. But in 18.5 percent of cases, they didn't return to the tasks at hand" (Dotinga, 5/12). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.