Use of a Real-Time Locating System to Assess Internal Medicine Resident Location and Movement in the Hospital

ARTICLE: Use of a Real-Time Locating System to Assess Internal Medicine Resident Location and Movement in the Hospital

AUTHORS: Michael A Rosen, Amanda K Bertram, Monica Tung, Sanjay V DesaiBrian T Garibaldi

JOURNAL: JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Jun 1;5(6):e2215885. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.15885.


Importance: The patient-physician clinical encounter is the cornerstone of medical training, yet residents spend as little as 12% of their time in direct patient contact.

Objectives: To use a real-time locating system (RTLS) to characterize intern work experiences in the hospital, understand factors associated with time spent at patients' bedsides, and inform future interventions to increase time spent with patients.

Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study was conducted from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019 (ie, the academic year 2018-2019). Internal medicine residents from postgraduate year 1 (interns) at an academic medical center wore an infrared badge that recorded location and duration (eg, patient room, ward hall, physician workroom). Data were analyzed from September 1, 2020, to August 30, 2021.

Main outcomes and measures: Main outcome was time (in minutes) at the bedside; the unit of analysis was a 24-hour intern day or interval of time within the day (eg, rounding period). Descriptive statistics are reported overall, by intern, and for 5 clinical service categories. Multilevel modeling assessed the association of intern, service, and calendar time with time spent at the bedside.

Results: Data from 43 of 52 interns (82.7%) encompassing 95 275 hours of observations were included for analyses. Twenty-six interns (60.5%) were women. Interns were detected for a mean (SD) of 722.8 (194.4) minutes per 24-hour period; 13.4% of this time was spent in patient rooms (mean [SD] time, 96.8 [57.2] minutes) and 33.3% in physician workrooms (mean [SD] time, 240.9 [228.8] minutes). Mean percentage of time at the bedside during a 24-hour period varied among interns from 8.8% to 18.3%. Mean (SD) percentage of time at the bedside varied by service for the 24-hour period from 11.7% (6.6%) for nononcology subspecialties to 15.4% (6.0%) for oncology, and during rounds from 8.0% (12.4%) for nononcology subspecialties to 26.5% (12.1%) for oncology. In multilevel modeling, the individual intern accounted for 8.1% of overall variance in time spent at the bedside during a 24-hour period, and service accounted for 18.0% of variance during rounds.

Conclusions and relevance: The findings of this cross-sectional study support previous evidence suggesting that interns spend only a small proportion of time with hospitalized patients. The differences in time spent in patients' rooms among interns and during rounds constitute an opportunity to design interventions that bring trainees back to the bedside.

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