How Do Physicians Spend Their Time?

Physician time is one of the most valuable – if not the most valuable – resources in health care, but very little is known about how physicians use their time. This project will move beyond the limited research that has been done to date by using Ecological Momentary Analysis (EMA), a method that is well-established in other fields, but new to the study of physicians, to provide precise estimates of how physicians spend their time. This project will bring much more attention to this issue. The project will be useful for physician leaders who want to improve physicians’ work experience, help physicians to efficiently allocate their time, and advocate for policy changes – internal or external to their organization – that lead to efficient uses of physician time.

EMA, as it will be used in this project, will involve “beeping” physicians at randomly selected times during the day. When beeped (or shortly thereafter), physicians will be able to click on icons on their cell phones to easily create a record of what they were doing at the time they were beeped. By multiplying the relative frequency with which each icon is clicked by the total number of hours a physician works, we will be able to make reasonably precise estimates of how physicians use their time.

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