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Patient-clinician concordance, face-time and access

James E. Stahl (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA and MGH – Institute for Technology Assessment, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Mark A. Drew (MGH Department of Medicine, MGH – Institute for Technology Assessment, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Alexa Boer Kimball (Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




People in socially disadvantageous positions may receive less time with their clinicians and consequently reduced access to healthcare resources, potentially magnifying health disparities. Socio-cultural characteristics of clinicians and patients may influence the time spent together. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between clinician/patient time and clinician and patient characteristics using real-time location systems (RTLS).


In the MGH/MGPO Outpatient RFID (radio-frequency identification) project clinicians and patients wore RTLS tags during the workday to measure face-time (FT), the duration patients and clinicians are co-located, wait time (WT); i.e. from registration to clinical encounter and flow time (FLT) from registration to discharge. Demographic data were derived from the health system's electronic medical record (EMR). The RTLS and EMR data were synthesized and analyzed using standard structured-query language and statistical analytic methods.


From January 1, 2009 to January 1, 2011, 1,593 clinical encounters were associated with RTLS measured FTs, which differed with socioeconomic status and gender: women and lower income people received greater FT. WT was significantly longer for lower socioeconomic patients and for patients seeing trainee clinicians, women or majority ethnic group clinicians (Caucasian). FLT was shortest for men, higher socioeconomic status and for attending physician patients. Demographic concordance between patient and clinician did not significantly affect process times.

Research limitations/implications

The study demonstrates the feasibility of using RTLS to capture clinically relevant process measures and suggests that the clinical delivery system surrounding a clinical encounter may more significantly influence access to clinician time than individual patient and clinician characteristics.


Applying RTLS to healthcare is coming. We can now successfully install and run these systems in healthcare settings and extract useful information from them. Interactions with the clinical delivery system are at least as important as interactions with clinicians for providing access to care: measure FT, WT and FLT with RTLS; link clinical behavior, e.g. FT, with patient characteristics; explore how individual characteristics interact with system behavior.



E. Stahl, J., A. Drew, M. and Boer Kimball, A. (2014), "Patient-clinician concordance, face-time and access", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 27 No. 8, pp. 664-671.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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