Facebook: How Much Is Too Much?

You might think that healthcare workers in the emergency department (ED) don’t have time to read Facebook posts but a new study suggests that, not only are they spending time on Facebook, it may be excessive enough to impact patient care.

A study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research reveals that Facebook is taking up a substantial amount of ED staff time. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and examined network utilization records for 68 workstations culled from hospital information systems at an academic medical center over a period of 15 days. The study concluded that healthcare workers visited the Facebook site 9,369 times during the study, spending a total of 72.5 hours browsing Facebook. That’s an average of 12 minutes every hour on Facebook.

The time of day had a significant influence on the amount of time that was spent on Facebook. During the night shift, staff averaged 19.8 minutes per hour browsing Facebook. On the day shift, they averaged significantly less time—only 4.3 minutes per hour. Surprisingly, more time was spent on Facebook as patient volume and severity increased, which indicated that as the ED became busier, Facebook time escalated.

The study concluded that the use of social networking in clinical areas was “unacceptably high” and cautioned that such electronic distractions should be used minimally if at all in the workplace. Researchers recommended that computer workstations in patient-care areas should restrict access to social networking sites and other forms of electronic entertainment, which could be accomplished with web filters, screensaver reminders, and a comprehensive policy on the use of the Internet in the workplace that includes the use of personal mobile devices. Additional studies were suggested to determine if Facebook use should be restricted to breakrooms and other nonwork areas.

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