Physicians in Bangladesh invest only less than 50 seconds to each of the patients who seek primary healthcare against 22.5 minutes in Sweden, says a global study.
One hundred and seventy-nine studies were identified from 111 publications covering 28 570 712 consultations in 67 countries under the study.
The average consultation length differed across the world, ranging from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden, showed the study findings.
“We found that 18 countries representing about 50 percent of the global population spend 5 min or less with their primary care physicians. We also found significant associations between consultation length and healthcare spending per capita, admissions to hospital with ambulatory sensitive conditions such as diabetes, primary care physician density, physician efficiency and physician satisfaction,” according to medical journal BMJ.
In conclusion, the study said there are international variations in consultation length, and it is concerning that a large proportion of the global population have only a few minutes with their primary care physicians.
Such a short consultation length is likely to adversely affect patient healthcare and physician workload and stress, said the study.
There were 15 countries with their most recently reported consultation length at <5 minutes, 25 countries with a consultation length of 5–9.9 minutes, 11 countries with 10–14.9 minutes, 13 countries with a consultation length of 15–19.9 minutes and 3 countries with a consultation length of ≥20 minutes. Three countries had sufficient data points to determine long-term trends: Australia, the UK and the USA. In Australia, the consultation length was relatively stable, in the USA consultation length was increasing (by 12 s a year), and in UK consultation length was increasing (by 4.2 s a year). This review demonstrates that the consultation length of primary care physicians varies markedly across the world. The study mentioned that it is concerning that 18 countries covering 50 percent of the world’s population have a latest reported mean consultation length of 5 minutes or less. The reasons for such striking differences may reflect a number of factors, including issues relating to governance, workforce, access, continuity, comprehensiveness and coordination. For example, it said, in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, there is no appointment system, and individual primary care physicians may undertake over 90 consultations a day with a considerable amount of time taken up providing repeat prescriptions. The study was carried out to describe the average primary care physician consultation length in economically developed and low-income/middle-income countries, and to examine the relationship between consultation length and organisational-level economic, and health outcomes.