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New UC Davis study finds physician style and HMO affiliation impact lengths of patient visit
Date:12/5/2007

han 72 minutes, with an average visit lasting approximately 22 minutes.

Geraghty, an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at UC Davis, pointed out that meeting patients desires for longer visits tends to conflict with the pressures faced by most physicians in established practices.

"Physicians who work in HMOs or who have busy practices risk jeopardizing patient satisfaction because, inevitably, their patient visits are shorter," she said. "Patient satisfaction is an important component of care because it influences a patients adherence to a physicians recommended plan for treatment. Consequently, there is a constant tension between practice efficiency and providing a long enough visit to satisfy the patient."

Geraghty noted that it could be important for doctors who cant easily carve out more time for consultations with their patients to find alternative ways to improve patient satisfaction. She said small steps, such as exhibiting greater empathy, enhancing active listening skills, decreasing waiting-room time, asking more open-ended questions about primary complaints and allowing patients to respond with minimal interruption could help compensate for unavoidably short visit lengths.

The study involved 298 primary care visits by 18 standardized patients to physicians at medical offices in California and New York. Standardized patients are healthy persons trained to portray the personal history, physical symptoms, emotional characteristics and everyday concerns of an actual patient. Using these actor-patients helped Geraghty and her colleagues limit the uncontrolled variability associated with patient differences encountered when using real-life patients.

The researchers concluded that more study is needed to examine the relationship of quality and visit length and to understand how physicians can maximize patient satisfaction within a reasonable amount of time.


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Contact: Charles Casey
charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9048
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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