Doctors Don't Change Their Routine During Longer Consultations

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Some patients might feel like they spend more time in the waiting room than actually talking with their doctor, but a new review of studies suggests that these consultations would not be much different if patients had more face time with their physicians.

In five studies conducted in the United Kingdom, doctors did not discuss more problems, prescribe more drugs, run more tests, make more referrals or do more examinations when they had a few additional minutes with patients.

“There was some evidence that blood pressure was checked and smoking discussed more often when more time was available,” said Andrew Wilson, M.D., of England’s University of Leicester, who wrote the review with University of Northumbria researcher Susan Childs.


However, he said, “The most consistent finding was that several aspects of doctors’ behavior remained unchanged.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The patients in the five studies did not feel more satisfied with their care when they were able to consult longer with their doctors. However, in each study, consultation times were only slightly longer than usual, and might have not been enough extra time to make a difference in the doctors’ routine or the patients’ satisfaction, the researchers write.

A 2007 study in the United States found that patients’ visit times with primary care doctors could vary from six to 72 minutes for the same condition. University of California-Davis researcher Estella Geraghty, M.D., who led the 2007 study, said that factors from a doctor’s personal style to whether the doctor practiced in an HMO could affect visit length.

The review discloses that Andrew Wilson was an author of one of the included studies.