Skip to content

Information and Resources

Are Shorter Doctors' Visits Just a Myth?

Shorter Office Visits
Font Size
A
A
A

WebMD Feature

Jan. 17, 2001 -- The frustrations -- real or perceived -- confronting patients and doctors by managed care have provided comedians with material for a month of stand-up routines:

Question: What do you call a visit to an HMO doctor for a flu shot?
Answer: A drive-by shooting.

Recommended Related to Health Ins & Medicare

Health Care Reform and Pre-Existing Conditions: FAQ

Under the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing health conditions cannot be denied health insurance as of 2014, when the law takes full effect. WebMD readers submitted a number of questions about this aspect of the law. Here are answers.

Read the Health Care Reform and Pre-Existing Conditions: FAQ article > >

Question: What are some ways to know you've joined a cheap HMO?
Answer: To avoid a time-consuming throat culture, the doctor French kisses you.

And by now many web-browsing patients and doctors have seen the widely circulated memo by a fictitious squinty-eyed claims administrator offering a cost-effectiveness analysis of a famous unfinished Schubert symphony: "If all redundant passages were eliminated, as determined by the utilization review committee, the concert would have been reduced to about 20 minutes, resulting in substantial savings in salaries and overhead. In fact, if Schubert had addressed these concerns on a cost-containment basis, he probably would have been able to finish his symphony."

The jokes attest to a pervasive anxiety about the transformations of American medical care in the last 20 years. And they speak to the widespread belief -- disseminated as conventional wisdom -- that managed care has drastically reduced the amount of time a physician can spend with a patient.

But now national survey data have turned up a startling finding: The average duration of physician office visits actually increased between 1989 and 1998.

"It is important for patients to understand that the rhetoric about managed care is not necessarily true," lead author David Mechanic, PhD, director of the Institute on Health, Healthcare Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers University, tells WebMD. "They have to evaluate their care on the basis of their own experience and on good data that is increasingly available."

Using information from two nationally representative data banks, Mechanic found that the average duration of a physician office visit increased between one and two minutes from 1989 to 1998. The length of office visits increased for patients in both prepaid HMOs and non-prepaid managed care plans, according to the report, published in the Jan. 18 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

1 | 2 | 3

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.