Public Release: 

Satisfactory consultations do not have to be long

Letter: Consultations do not have to be longer BMJ Volume 325, p 388


Consultations with general practitioners do not have to be longer to satisfy patients' needs, according to researchers in this week's BMJ.

A total of 243 patients were asked about what they wanted from their visit to their general practitioner. They were subsequently asked what they felt they had got from the consultation.

Patients wanted most to talk to their general practitioner. At least half also wanted to participate in decisions about treatment, wanted the doctor to listen to what they thought was wrong, have the problem and the treatment explained to them, and receive a diagnosis. /more follows The range of consultation time for all patients was from 2 minutes to 21 minutes.

There was wide variation in what patients wanted from their consultation - ranging from none to all 12 things they were asked about. However, after the consultation, 75% of patients received than they had wanted.

Although others have found that longer consultations are associated with better quality care for patients, these findings indicate that consultations do not have to be longer for patients to have good outcomes, and even the shortest of consultations can provide all that patients want, say the authors.

"From the patient's perspective it seems that satisfactory consultations do not have to be long ones," they conclude.


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