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A 48-second doctor visit, anyone?


Edwin Kruys


17/11/2017 12:20:46 PM

Time is precious in general practice.

News teaser
New research shows short consultations are associated with polypharmacy, overuse of antibiotics and poor communication with patients.

In 2014, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott used the term ‘sausage machine medicine’ to describe some GP clinics churning through patient appointments.
 
However, the myth that Australian general practice is ‘six-minute medicine’ was quickly debunked at the time with the help of data from the BEACH study, which showed that GPs only spend about 12% of their total consultation time on patient encounters of fewer than 10 minutes.
 
More recently, a large international review of consultation length published in BMJ Open has found a large variation in the time patients spend inside consultation rooms across the world. The study showed that average consultation length ranged from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden. In 18 countries, representing about half of the global population, patients usually spend five minutes or fewer with their primary care doctors.
 
The authors of the study – ‘International variations in primary care physician consultation time: A systematic review of 67 countries’ – reiterate that effective management of patients with complex needs and multimorbidity within primary care requires sufficient time. They say that short consultations are associated with polypharmacy, overuse of antibiotics and poor communication with patients. There is also an association between shorter consultations and doctor burnout.
 
Average consultation length appears to be shortening in some low-income and middle-income countries. The authors of the study warn that this trend, in combination with expanding populations and rising treatment possibilities, could become overwhelming. A short consultation length is likely to adversely affect patient care and GP workload and stress, they found.
 
Consultation length has been gradually increasing in the UK and the US, while the average duration of a consultation in Australia has been stable at just under 15 minutes for many years.



BEACH-study consultation-time patient-communication





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