FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors-in-training spend
too little time with patients, a small new study suggests.
Researchers tracked 29 first-year medical interns at Baltimore's
two large academic medical centers for three weeks during January
2012, for a total of nearly 900 hours, and found that the interns
spent just 12 percent of their time examining and talking with
Sixty-four percent of their time was spent on indirect patient
care, such as placing orders, researching patient history and
filling out electronic paperwork; 15 percent of their time was
spent on educational activities, such as medical rounds; and 9
percent was spent on miscellaneous activities.
The interns spent nearly as much time (7 percent) walking as
they did at patients' bedsides, according to the study, which was
published online in the
Journal of General Internal Medicine.
"One of the most important learning opportunities in residency
is direct interaction with patients. Spending an average of eight
minutes a day with each patient just doesn't seem like enough time
to me," study leader Dr. Lauren Block, a clinical fellow in the
division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine, said in a university news
Other doctors agree. "Most of us went into medicine because we
love spending time with the patients. Our systems have squeezed
this out of medical training," study senior author Dr. Leonard
Feldman, a hospitalist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said in the
The researchers said the amount of time interns spend with
patients has decreased significantly since 2003, when hospitals
were first required to limit consecutive working hours for interns.
That initial limit was 30 hours, which was reduced to 16 hours in
With interns spending fewer hours in the hospital, it's
important to implement measures to ensure that they spend enough
time with patients, the experts said.
"As residency changes, we need to find ways to preserve the
patient-doctor relationship," Block said. "Getting to know patients
better can improve diagnoses and care and reduce medical
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips for
talking with your doctor.