Asking patients to choose their preferred length of consultation time when booking a GP appointment may increase satisfaction levels for patients and doctors, suggests a study1 in the March issue of the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).
Dr Rod Sampson and colleagues from the Cairn Medical Practice in Inverness conducted an experiment in which 174 patients visiting the surgery over a five week period were invited to choose between 5, 10, 15 or 20 minute consultations when making their appointment. The patients and their GPs gave feedback on how positively or negatively the length of their consultation impacted on patient care.
Both doctors and patients reported an increase in patient empowerment and improved time management in the consultation, although there were some concerns about the accuracy of the choice of timing in particular cases and it was suggested that patient education in this area might be beneficial.
Commenting on his research, Dr Rod Sampson said: “Choice is an important issue for patients and they can usually assess accurately how long a consultation they need. The results of this study suggest that there may be a number of benefits to be gained by giving patients greater responsibility for choosing the length of their appointments. It is important to be aware that this may not meet all the needs of doctors or patients. Educating doctors, reception staff and patients on how best to use such a system, for the benefit of both doctors and patients would seem necessary.”
Professor Roger Jones, Editor of the British Journal of General Practice said: “This research has real potential to shake up what we perceive as patient choice. This was not a large study and we would be interested in seeing whether the findings would be similar over a large number of GP practices, and over a longer period.”
“Sharing control of appointment length with patients in general practice: a qualitative study.”,
Rod Sampson, Jeremiah O’Rourke, Ross Hendry, David Heaney, Samantha Holden, Alex Thain and Ronald MacVicar
Br J Gen Pract 2013; DOI: 10.3399/bjgp13X664234.