• Study
  • Published September 2015

Work conditions, mental workload and patient care quality: a multisource study in the emergency department.

Workflow interruptions are often a necessary reality in busy clinical settings, but they can pose serious risks for patient safety. This mixed-method study in a medium-sized community emergency department (ED) found that ED personnels' workflow was disrupted on average 5.6 times per hour and that nearly a third of time was spent on multitasking activities. Similar to a prior study by some of the same authors, interruptions were common and associated with higher perceived workload. In this study, ED professionals' mental workload was negatively related to patients' perceived quality of care and their general satisfaction with their care. However, workflow interruptions were also associated with better patient-related information on discharge and overall quality of transfer, suggesting a more nuanced role for the consequences of interruptions. A prior AHRQ WebM&M perspective discussed interruptions and distractions in health care.

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