Doctors become doctors to care for people, to listen to them, guide them toward wellness, diagnose and treat them when they are ill, and generally to be healers rooted within a community. These themes are so foundational that the hypocritic oath specifically calls out the importance of mentorship between physicians, the need to remember the “art” within the science, the power of compassion, and the deep truth that a person is more than the sum of his or her symptoms.
Meanwhile, health and illness, how we feel in, and about, our bodies are deeply personal topics that can be difficult to discuss. Patients need to feel like they are in a safe space where an expertly trained, well-rested, fully present professional can engage with them to weave together a complete picture of why they are not sleeping or what is causing their chronic pain. That is a tall order for the average 15-minute time allotment for an in-office doctor appointment.
A 15-Minute Doctor Appointment Does Not Work
No one knows exactly why short and rushed visits became the norm. And how doctors structure the “15-minute doctor appointment” varies. Generally, they start by asking the patient how they are and why they came in. They try to zero in on the “chief complaint” — the medical term for the patient’s primary reason for the visit. However, most patients have more than one issue to discuss. Fifteen minutes with a doctor is simply not enough time for patients to address all of their concerns.
Treatment Takes Time
In a recent study conducted by The Physicians Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to empowering physicians, only 11 percent of patients feel like they get enough physician time during their doctor appointment. What is more, only 14 percent of doctors feel like they are getting sufficient time with their patients. When an organization whose mission revolves around strengthening doctor-patient relationships conducts a study that finds doctor appointment time allotments are not serving either patients or doctors, this makes a significant impression.
It also makes intuitive sense that while efficiency and cost-containment have a place in a well-run healthcare system. A thoughtful and thorough assessment takes time. It takes time to review notes and patient history, it takes time to connect on a personal level, and it takes time to collect the necessary detail about work life, home life, and diet and exercise, as well as the aches and pains. We are not robots and we can not ask physicians, many of which are experiencing doctor burnout, to perform like machines. Any more than we can ask patients to distill their anxieties and narratives down to sound bites short enough to fit within a doctor appointment fragment of an over-booked day.
Another critical element of patient care that takes time is developing a strong doctor-patient relationship. The same study by The Physicians Foundation also found that 95% percent of patients are satisfied with their primary doctor. That is a staggeringly high number and one that offers a lot of encouragement as well as insight into the human dimension of healthcare. Patients are not disillusioned about physician expertise or competency. Rather, they just want more time, more access, and a longer and more comprehensive doctor appointment.
Creating a Sustainable System
And doctors want this too. They want to make sure they are delivering the highest standard of care possible. They want the opportunity to observe patients over time and to feel the satisfaction of knowing that that they are helping their patients, their neighbors, their community to live strong, healthy lives. The study also revealed that 89 percent of consumers are “fearful” of “the rising cost of healthcare. And doctors are strongly committed to containing costs and increasing sustainability. Not through punishing profit targets. But through efficacious treatment plans that increase wellness and decrease the frequency of appointments or need for medication. All of this is predicated on a longer doctor appointment, which is just good medicine.
How a Concierge Doctor Appointment Differs From the Average Doctor Appointment
Concierge physicians limit the number of patients they see. As a result, they can provide enhanced access, longer appointments, and highly customized patient care. This means no more waiting for weeks for an acute illness. Or waiting hours in the waiting room prior to being seen or having many questions after a 15-minute doctor appointment. To learn more about concierge medicine or to become a member, call our concierge practice at 847-986-6770. If you would rather us contact you instead fill out our quick contact form online now.
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