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15-Minute Visits Take A Toll On The Doctor-Patient Relationship

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In 1992, most visits – about 70 percent -- lasted 15 minutes or less; by 2010, only half of doctor visits were that short (the data is from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual nationally representative sample survey of visits to physicians).

This doesn’t necessarily mean the patient experience is improving. Medical schools drill students in the art of taking a careful medical history, but studies have found doctors often fall short in the listening department. It turns out they have a bad habit of interrupting.

A 1999 study of 29 family physician practices found that doctors let patients speak for only 23 seconds before redirecting them; only one in four patients got to finish their statement. A University of South Carolina study in 2001 found primary care patients were interrupted after 12 seconds, if not by the health care provider then by a beeper or a knock on the door.

Yet making the patient feel they have been heard may be one of the most important elements of doctoring, Lickerman said.

“People feel dissatisfied when they don’t get a chance to say what they have to say,” he said. “I will sometimes boast that I can make people feel they ‘got their money’s worth’ in five minutes. It’s not the actual time or lack of time people are complaining about – it’s how that time felt.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Fri, Apr 18 2014

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