How long should an outpatient appointment be?

The answer to this, ostensibly, would be straightforward – depends on how complex the case is. But in real life, this does boil down to a number. In GP-land the magic number is 7 – yes, that’s 7 minutes per patient. This morning I saw 10 patients in the space of 3 1/2 hours. That’s more than 20 minutes per patient. The clinic overran by half  an hour, and the department was deserted (for lunch hour) by the time I finished. On paper, it was supposed to be 2 doctors seeing 24 patients in 3 hours. So that’s 15 minutes per patient. (Also means the quicker doc sees more patients, so makes me unpopular with colleagues) I guess that’s generous compared to the primary care consultation. It’s a balance between being thorough and being focused. And giving the patient the illusion that you aren’t rushed. I’ve never been the most efficient at seeing outpatients (because I’m too worried that I’ll miss something), but I’m also a bit out of practice at the moment, having been on intensive care for 6 months. To be fair, 3 out of the 10 had various psychological issues and a couple needed ‘expert’ reassurance (which is difficult when you look young, I reckon – and I mean being mistaken for 18 when you’re 30; NOT good if you are a doctor because patients assume you know nothing, and therefore refuse to be reassured). So it was a complete heartsink to discover at the end of it all that I had missed something (minor) on one patient. That made me miserable for the rest of the day. (Oh, and I missed lunch too) So it was a pretty rubbish day, which ended in having to learn yet more car anatomy – this time it’s ‘oil sump’. At least my car gets to be indoors while it’s snowing. Oh, I don’t know. I just wish I was better. Or perfect – efficient, never missing anything.

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One response to “How long should an outpatient appointment be?

  1. When you try to assure the out-patient, if I were you, I would say – “I had a similar (or identical) case 9 years ago, I think etc…….” so people will not think that you are 18 years old. right 🙂

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