Health care provider time in public primary care facilities in Lima, Peru: a cross-sectional time motion study


Hannah H Leslie, Denisse Laos, Cesar Cárcamo, Ricardo Pérez-Cuevas, and Patricia J García. 2021. “Health care provider time in public primary care facilities in Lima, Peru: a cross-sectional time motion study.” BMC Health Serv Res, 21, 1, Pp. 123.


BACKGROUND: In Peru, a majority of individuals bypass primary care facilities even for routine services. Efforts to strengthen primary care must be informed by understanding of current practice. We conducted a time motion assessment in primary care facilities in Lima with the goals of assessing the feasibility of this method in an urban health care setting in Latin America and of providing policy makers with empirical evidence on the use of health care provider time in primary care. METHODS: This cross-sectional continuous observation time motion study took place from July - September 2019. We used two-stage sampling to draw a sample of shifts for doctors, nurses, and midwives in primary health facilities and applied the Work Observation Method by Activity Timing tool to capture type and duration of provider activities over a 6-h shift. We summarized time spent on patient care, paper and electronic record-keeping, and non-work (personal and inactive) activities across provider cadres. Observations are weighted by inverse probability of selection. RESULTS: Two hundred seventy-five providers were sampled from 60 facilities; 20% could not be observed due to provider absence (2% schedule error, 8% schedule change, 10% failure to appear). One hundred seventy-four of the 220 identified providers consented (79.1%) and were observed for a total of 898 h of provider time comprising 30,312 unique tasks. Outpatient shifts included substantial time on patient interaction (110, 82, and 130 min for doctors, nurses, and midwives respectively) and on paper records (132, 97, and 141 min) on average. Across all shifts, 1 in 6 h was spent inactive or on personal activities. Two thirds of midwives used computers compared to half of nurses and one third of doctors. CONCLUSIONS: The time motion study is a feasible method to capture primary care operations in Latin American countries and inform health system strengthening. In the case of Lima, absenteeism undermines health worker availability in primary care facilities, and inactive time further erodes health workforce availability. Productive time is divided between patient-facing activities and a substantial burden of paper-based record keeping for clinical and administrative purposes. Electronic health records remain incompletely integrated within routine care, particularly beyond midwifery.
Last updated on 04/21/2021