Introduction: The admission interview is an important procedure to reduce medication errors. Studies indicate that physicians do not spend much time on the interview and that the major obstacles are lack of time and heavy workload. The aim of this study was to measure the time physicians spend on admission interviews and to describe factors that affect time consumption.
Material and methods: This time study was conducted at an acute medicine department. Physicians conducting admission interviews were observed, and time consumption was recorded.
Results: Fifty admission interviews were observed; they lasted an average of 45 (range 8-84) minutes. The effective time consumption was 32 (range 7-59) minutes. Fifteen (range 3-41) minutes were spent on actually interviewing and examining the patient and compiling the medication history. It took zero to five (mean 2.2) minutes to collect the medication history. The number of interruptions per interview was zero to nine (mean two); they were mostly caused by phone calls from physicians or nurses or by nurses asking for advice on problems with other patients. The mean duration of an interruption was 7.1 minutes.
Conclusion: Physicians spend an average of 45 minutes on admission interviews and are interrupted up to nine times. Only a few minutes are spent on collecting the medication history. Though the quality of the interviews and the actual error rate were not assessed, the observed working conditions may imply a high potential for medication errors.