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Editor's Comments on 'Too Much Time With Patients'

 , March 25, 2016

In “Too Much Time With Patients,” Charlotte Grinberg accurately recounts the hectic nature of days in an academic hospital – days that leave healthcare providers with shockingly little time to spend with our patients. Minutes are usurped by electronic documentation, and these minutes stretch into hours spent mostly in front of computers, frantically trying to keep up with the massive amount of data and notation that define modern patient care. Her perspective as a third-year medical student forces us to consider what it means to be a “caregiver” – a role she is clearly excited to take on in this very first step of her clinical training.

What do we give we when provide care? As physicians and medical trainees, we give our critical thought, our knowledge, and our care coordination abilities, but do we give (enough) time? Do we give time in an efficient way that streamlines care and makes our patients feel heard, or do we give just enough time to convince ourselves that we have done our jobs before we are forced back into the quagmire of the electronic health record?

As a pediatric intern at a large, busy hospital, Grinberg’s piece resonates with me. My most satisfying patient encounters have been with children and families with whom I am able to spend meaningful time. Spending time with patients is not only personally satisfying, but it also contributes directly to patient care. When we understand a patient’s goals and priorities we can create stronger therapeutic partnerships in which our decisions are guided not only by bloodwork and consultants’ recommendations, but also by patients’ values and experiences. Ultimately, it is this type of medical care that will have the greatest impact and lead to the best outcomes.

Grinberg offers concrete ideas for improving our efficiency in order to make more time for our patients. Whole-team bedside rounding and utilizing the electronic health record for effective intra-team communication are just two ways we can decrease the redundancy and inefficiency of hospital care. As she finishes medical school and begins residency, I hope the frustrations Grinberg so eloquently explores in this essay will galvanize her and others to continue the search for solutions. It’s high time we got back to giving time to our patients.

Irène Mathieu