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How long should a med consult last?

Most of us have had reason to consult a medic for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s for trivial reasons, and other times it might be for some complex medical issues.

The time you spend in any one consultation is variable, but likely very short. Questions are increasingly being asked whether doctors give patients enough consultation time, or are in a rush to see the next person waiting in the queue.

A recent review has documented decreasing consultation times over the years. In the early part of this century, consultation times would span anywhere between 30 minutes to even an hour.

Fast forward to current consultation times and you will struggle to find intervals that last more than 15 to 20 minutes. Are you being short-changed, or at worst is something critical being missed by hurried consultations?

The absolute amount of time you spend in a consultation may not matter so much. What should guide consultation intervals is the complexity of cases, the total number of bookings for the day, and the amount of time allocated for each patient. If consulting for the very first time, you should expect to be given a longer consultation interval. Subsequent follow-up appointments may only last for short periods of time. What is important is to be given ample time to explain your symptoms, get an appropriate assessment, and be given a full explanation of possible diagnoses and treatment options. You should always have an opportunity to ask questions and get clarifications for issues that may be unclear.

So what should you do if you feel aggrieved by a short consultation with your doctor? You have several choices. You could simply tell the doctor that you are not satisfied with the amount of time they have availed to you. Or simply ask for a subsequent longer appointment. You could also choose to walk away and seek another consultation elsewhere. If you choose to walk away, please give some feedback about your dissatisfaction. Whatever you do, you must take steps to ensure subsequent consultations are worth your time.

Can doctors and healthcare facilities do anything to ensure satisfying consultation times for their patients? Oh yes, appropriate forward planning and flexibility can ensure that everyone gets their time’s worth for every consultation. Bookings should be made to accommodate both new and returning patients, with appropriate time allocations. Overbooking clinics and then rushing patients in order to beat the clock should be avoided. And each appointment should build in some leeway for unexpected longer consultations.

But don’t get too fixated over the amount of time you spend in a consultation. It’s a mad rush out there in many aspects. Be concise with what’s ailing you, gabbing your way in circles will waste both your time and your doctor’s. You want quality time, not quantity for the sake of it.

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Most of us have had reason to consult a medic for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s for trivial reasons, and other times it might be for some complex medical issues.

The time you spend in any one consultation is variable, but likely very short.

Questions are increasingly being asked whether doctors give patients enough consultation time, or are in a rush to see the next person waiting in the queue.

A recent review has documented decreasing consultation times over the years. In the early part of this century, consultation times would span anywhere between 30 minutes to even an hour.

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