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The Bedside Manifesto

“Most of us went into medicine because we love spending time with patients,” said Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Leonard Feldman, MD.

Dr. Feldman is co-author of an article published April 18 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine which reveals that medical interns spend only 12% of their time examining and talking with patients, and more than 40% of their time on computer tasks. 

“Our systems have squeezed [patient contact] out of medical training,” said Dr. Feldman.“ All of us think that interns spend too much time behind the computer. It’s not an easy problem to solve.”

For three weeks a year ago, investigators observed 29 interns at two Johns Hopkins University internal medicine residency programs for a total of 873 hours. Direct patient care accounted for only 12.3% of interns’ time, and computer use for 40%. The paucity of direct interaction may explain previous studies’ findings that only 10% of hospitalized patients know which resident physicians are responsible for their care. “I think we can do better,” said Dr. Feldman.

He’s right. Unless we want healthcare to devolve ultimately into a system of vending machines, we need to restore its traditional personal intimacy. But medical sages have been chanting that mantra since the 1920s. What holds it up?
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