Collaboration, Interruptions and Changeover Times: Workflow Model and Empirical Study of Hospitalist Charting
Manufacturing & Service Operations Management
43 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2015 Last revised: 22 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 25, 2018
Collaboration is important in services, but may lead to interruptions. Professionals exercise discretion on when to preempt individual tasks to switch to collaborative tasks. Discretionary task switching can introduce changeover times when resuming the preempted task and thus can increase total processing time.
We analyze and quantify how collaboration, through interruptions and discretionary changeovers, affects total processing time. We introduce an episodal workflow model that captures the interruption and discretionary changeovers dynamics---each switch and the episode of work it preempts---present in settings where collaboration and multitasking is paramount. A simulation study provides evidence that changeover times are properly identified and estimated without bias. We then deploy the model in a field study of hospital medicine physicians---"hospitalists." The hospitalist workflow includes visiting patients, consulting with other caregivers to guide patient diagnosis and treatment, and documenting in the patient's medical chart.
The empirical analysis uses a dataset assembled from direct observation of hospitalist activity and pager-log data. We estimate that a hospitalist incurs a total changeover time during documentation of 5min per patient per day. This represents a significant 20% of total processing time per patient: caring for 14 patients per day, a hospitalist spends more than one hour each day on changeovers. This provides evidence that task switching causally leads to longer documentation time.
Keywords: coordination, multitasking, professional labor, discretion, changeover time, empirical.
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