BACKGROUND: During the last two decades the German hospital sector has been engaged in a constant process of transformation. One obvious sign of this is the growing amount of hospital privatization. To date, most research studies have focused on the effects of privatization regarding financial outcomes and quality of care, leaving important organizational issues unexplored. Yet little attention has been devoted to the effects of privatization on physicians' working routines. The aim of this observational real-time study is to deliver exact data about physicians' work at hospitals of different ownership. By analysing working hours, further impacts of hospital privatization can be assessed and areas of improvement identified.
METHODS: Observations were made by shadowing 100 physicians working in private, for-profit or non-profit as well as public hospital departments individually during whole weekday shifts in urban German settings. A total of 300 days of observations were conducted. All working activities were recorded, accurate to the second, by using a mobile personal computer.
RESULTS: Results have shown significant differences in physicians' working activities, depending on hospital ownership, concerning working hours and time spent on direct and indirect patient care.
CONCLUSION: This is the first real-time analysis on differences in work activities depending on hospital ownership. The study provides an objective insight into physicians' daily work routines at hospitals of different ownership, with additional information on effects of hospital privatization.