Workflow in intensive care unit remote monitoring: A time-and-motion study

Crit Care Med. 2007 Sep;35(9):2057-63. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000281516.84767.96.


Objective: To investigate workflow in intensive care unit remote monitoring, a technology-driven practice that allows critical care specialists to perform proactive and continuous patient care from a remote site.

Design: A time-and-motion study.

Setting: Facility that remotely monitored 132 beds in nine intensive care units.

Participants: Six physicians and seven registered nurses.

Interventions: Participants were observed for 47 and 39 hrs, respectively.

Measurements and main results: Clinicians' workflow was analyzed as goal-oriented tasks and activities. Major variables of interest included the times spent on different types of tasks and activities, the frequencies of accessing various information resources, and the occurrence and management of interruptions in workflow. Physicians spent 70%, 3%, 3%, and 24% of their time on patient monitoring, collaboration, system maintenance, and administrative/social/personal tasks, respectively. For nurses, the time allocations were 46%, 3%, 4%, and 17%, respectively. Nurses spent another 30% of their time maintaining health records. In monitoring patients, physicians spent more percentage times communicating with others than the nurses (13% vs. 7%, p = .026) and accessed the in-unit clinical information system more frequently (42 vs. 14 times per hour, p = .027), while nurses spent more percentage times monitoring real-time vitals (16% vs. 2%, p = .012). Physicians' and nurses' workflows were interrupted at a rate of 2.2 and 7.5 times per hour (p < .001), with an average duration of 101 and 45 secs, respectively (p = .006). The sources of interruptions were significantly different for physicians and nurses (p < .001).

Conclusions: Physicians' and nurses' task performance and information utilization reflect the distributed nature of work organization in intensive care unit remote monitoring. Workflow interruption, clinical information system usability, and collaboration with bedside caregivers are the major issues that may affect the quality and efficiency of clinicians' work in this particular critical care setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Nurses / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Telemedicine
  • Time and Motion Studies*