Regular interruptions to the working days of doctors can mean they give less attention to their many tasks, causing them to do a poorer job, researchers have concluded.
This can include offering poorer patient care and cutting corners on what could be important jobs.
Researchers from the University of Sydney followed 40 doctors in the A&E department of a large hospital and found that minor interruptions could be a real problem.
On average, doctors were interrupted 6.6 times an hour by other colleagues, and spent 13% of their time multi-tasking.
The effect was that they failed to come back to 19% of the jobs they were stopped from doing, and spent less time on jobs - an average of 1.26 minutes less.
And when they did go back to jobs after being stopped, they spent half the time they would have if they had not been interrupted by a colleague with a question.
The experts concluded that the reason for speeding up on tasks could be that doctors felt the need to make up for “lost time” and aimed to”compensate by working faster and cutting corners”.
The results were published in the journal Quality and Safety in Healthcare.