Article Text

You've got mail—an audit of consultant email practice
  1. N Dhillon,
  2. N Shaw
  1. Endocrinology, Birmingham Children's Hospital, Birmingham, UK


Aims Communication via email is increasing in the medical workplace and is often used as the preferred means of communication relating to both clinical and non-clinical matters. The aims of this audit were to review consultant email usage and in particular to investigate the amount of time spent on email correspondence per day and if this time was incorporated into job plans.

Methods A short questionnaire was distributed by internal post to all consultants at a large paediatric secondary and tertiary care hospital (n=149). Questionnaires investigated demographic information, hours contracted to work, time spent on emails, number of emails received per day, access offsite, time at home reading emails, email access on annual leave and extended role within trust.

Results 94 (64%) of consultants replied, 57% were male and 43% were female. 18% were age 30–40 years, 57% age 41–50 years, 19% age 51–60 years and 5% >60 years. 84% were working full time and 16% were part time. 36% worked as medical subspecialists. Time spent per day on email: 3% did not spend any time, 4% <15 min, 43% spent 15 mins–1h, 36% spent 1–2 h, 12% spent 2–3 h and 2% spent >3 h. 54% of consultants received 15 or more emails per day in their inbox. 26% of consultants access emails at home with 10% of these spending 1–3 h per day. 22% access emails while on annual leave. 16% of consultants have one or more work email account. 71% thought time for emails was included in their job plan, 27% did not feel this time was included and 2% were unsure.

Conclusion On an average day, consultants spend a high proportion of time answering emails. Initiatives are required to reduce volume of emails, including departmental home pages to post messages and limiting use of reply to all. Incorporation of emails into allocated administration time within job plans would decrease the time used accessing emails from home and on leave.

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