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.