Article

Not happy with 'doc clock'?

Tuesday, 14th November, 2017

The average consultation in Australia lasts just under 15 minutes.

EVER leave the doctor's surgery feeling you've been rushed through? Well take heart. For half the world's population consultations last less than five minutes.

That's according to the largest-ever study looking at global experiences of healthcare conducted at the University of Cambridge in the UK and published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Australia fares pretty well, with consultations averaging just under 15 minutes.

Bottom of the table is Bangladesh with a mere 48 seconds, while Swedes luxuriate in the examination room for 22.5 minutes on average.

In 15 countries, which represent about half the world's population, the appointment lasted less than five minutes. It lasted under 10 minutes in a further 25 countries.

The authors combined results from 178 studies covering 67 countries and more than 28.5 million consultations, cautioning that the data quality varied but praising Australia for its consistently high-quality reporting.

Shorter consultation times have been linked to poorer health outcomes for patients and a heightened risk of burnout for doctors.

"Little can be achieved in less than five minutes unless the focus is largely on detection and management of gross disease," the researchers suggest.

"An average of five minutes may be the limit below which consultations amount to little more than triage and the issue of prescriptions."

Of more concern, they say, is that consultation length seems to be shortening in some low and middle-income countries, which may have important implications for population growth and the expansion of treatment options.


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