Patients and doctors both agree: Visits are too short
- A new survey underscores what most people already know: Doctor-patient face time is in short supply.
- Just 11% of patients and 14% of primary care physicians report having an adequate amount of time together, according to The Physician Foundation’s 2017 Patient Survey Report. Meanwhile, 9 in 10 said they feel the doctor-patient relationship is the most important factor in a quality healthcare system.
- Nearly 9 in 10 consumers worry that rising healthcare costs will negatively impact them in the future, while 56% blame prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals for helping fuel those costs. One-quarter of patients admit not filling a prescription and 19% say they have skipped doses to save money.
While a majority of consumers are satisfied with their doctor, 65% say face time is always or often limited. At the same time, they recognize the increasing demands on doctors’ time — with more than half (53%) saying doctors are working at full capacity. The survey included 1,747 adults aged 27 to 75 who visited the same doctor at least twice in the past year.
Consumers also want to see more physician influence over treatment options and healthcare policy. On treatment options for medical conditions, physician impact ranked fourth behind insurance companies, drug and medical device companies and Congress. On policy discussions, physicians also trailed drug and device companies and Congress, tying third with state government.
But the biggest concerns remains cost, the survey showed. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers (57%) feel they are one illness away from being in financial straits, and 75% worry they won’t be able to pay if they get sick or injured, up from 62% a year ago.
The findings should come as no surprise. A number of studies have shined a light on the increasing regulatory and administrative burdens doctors face and the time it takes away from patient visits.
In a recent study of EHR event logs, physicians spent 5.9 hours per weekday — 4.5 hours during clinic hours and 1.4 hours after hours — on EHR-related activities. An earlier study found doctors slightly more time on computer tasks than on patient care — 3.17 hours versus 3.80 hours, respectively.
Physician burnout can take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship. Symptoms include emotional exhaustion, lack of compassion and feelings of inadequacy. With the shift to value-based care and growing focus on patient experience, doctors who find a way to increase time with patients, through more face time or tools like patient portals and texting, could see higher ratings and incentives.