25 July 2018

Doctors interrupting patients after 11 seconds

Communication KnowCents

Patients get only about 11 seconds to explain their concerns before a doctor interrupts them, a new analysis has shown.

In a US study of 112 videotaped consultations, only one in three doctors gave patients the opportunity to explain themselves freely. Doctors cut patients off on seven out of ten occasions, with a median of 11 seconds to interruption.

Patients who were allowed to finish talking took between two and 108 seconds, according to the study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Previous research has shown that patients generally wrap up their monologue in about 90 seconds if doctors do not cut them short.

“We found that interruptions occur extremely early in the patient’s discourse and that patients are given just a few seconds to tell their story,” the authors said.

“Failure to elicit the patient’s agenda reduces the chance that clinicians will orient the
priorities of a clinical encounter toward specific aspects that matter to each patient.”

In specialist encounters, the doctor might skip this step because they already know the reason for the referral, the authors said. Specialists were significantly more likely to interrupt patients than GPs, they found.

GPs might be under time constraints or might use interruptions as a way to guide and focus the conversation.

“Yet, it seems rather unlikely that an interruption, even to clarify or focus, could be beneficial at the early stage of the encounter,” the authors said.

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2 Comments on "Doctors interrupting patients after 11 seconds"

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Lou Lewis
Lou Lewis
9 months 24 days ago
The article by FILICITY NELSON 25 JULY 2018 “Doctors interrupting patients after 11 seconds” seems, at first glance, a poor indictment on doctors to their patients. I think that the best way to reply to such a (fairly accurate) article would be to just reflect back on a regular patient of yours you may come in with a bit of nausea or vomiting or a sore throat. After the usual pleasantries with our regular patients , such as how is the spouse, how are the kids, and similar small chat that can take up to 2 or 3 minutes, you… Read more »
Max Kamien
Max Kamien
9 months 27 days ago

I recall that the last such study some 20+ years ago (also in USA) gave the time as 18 seconds. Doubt that Aussie docs can compete with that.