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Doctors Only Listen to Patients for 11 Seconds, Study Concludes



After spending hours sometimes waiting just to see the doctor, the actual visit can seem so short. It may not be your imagination. A new study finds physicians give a patient an average of just 11 seconds to describe their issue before cutting them off, according to


Researchers from the University of Florida found that doctors have the tendency to step on their patient’s toes as the patients. The study showed that just a third of physicians give patients adequate time to explain why they’re there.


A new study finds physicians give a patient an average of just 11 seconds to describe their issue before cutting them off.


“Our results suggest that we are far from achieving patient-centered care,” says study co-author Naykky Singh Ospina in a release, adding that medicals specialists proved to be in the biggest hurry, compared to primary care physicians.


Singh Ospina, who led the research team, wanted to focus on conversation between clinicians and patients, and more importantly, see how possible it was for the patient to lead most of the discussion. Her researchers secured videos of consultations that were filmed in clinics across the U.S. as training sessions for the physicians between 2008 and 2015.


The team specifically analyzed the first few minutes of the 112 consultations, looking to find out how frequently doctors let the patients dictate the conversation through inquiries such as “Tell me what brings you in today,” or “What can I do for you today?” If patients were given the opportunity to set the agenda, the researchers then timed the responses to see how long they could speak before the doctor interrupted them, according to


The results posit that only 36 percent of doctors ask questions that allowed patients to set the agenda, but two-thirds of those patients were interrupted after responding. Researchers calculated the doctors cut patients off 11 seconds on average into a response, while those who were able to describe their issue in full could do so in six seconds, according to


“If done respectfully and with the patient’s best interest in mind, interruptions to the patient’s discourse may clarify or focus the conversation, and thus benefit patients,” says Singh Ospina. “Yet, it seems rather unlikely that an interruption, even to clarify or focus, could be beneficial at the early stage in the encounter.”


The results also showed that only 20 percent of specialists give patients the opportunity to describe their issue at the onset of a consultation, though it’s certainly possible because they’ve already been briefed on a patient’s problem through a referral or a nurse’s inquiry. Conversely, half of primary care physicians reviewed in the study inquired about a patient’s agenda off the bat, according to


Singh Ospina still talks about how important physicians are in the process, even if they’d previously been alerted to a patient’s reason for visiting, and how they should allow people to discuss their concerns right away so they can use their expertise in a more focused way and build trust and comfort. “Even in a specialty visit concerning a specific matter, it is invaluable to understand why the patients think they are at the appointment and what specific concerns they have related to the condition or its management,” she says.


The authors suggest burnout that many doctors experience may interfere with the ability to properly assess and treat their patients. Other factors include time constraints or simply not receiving strong enough training on how to communicate properly with patients, according to


The full study was published July 2, 2018 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


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