Study: PCPs handle six topics per visit

Perhaps it would be better if PCPs had a few extra arms and an extra head or two. According to new research, U.S. primary care doctors must typically address an average of six topics during a given office visit. The study, which was just published in the journal Health Services Research, used videotapes of 392 primary care doctor's visits between 1998 and 2000. (It's worth noting that all patients were aged 65 or older; given the elderly's more-fragile health status, and greater needs, it's possible results might have differed with younger patients.) Given these time constraints, the most important topic got an average five minutes of discussion, while remaining issues generally only got one minute each. While many doctors are trained to ask a patient about their top concerns, and address only three or four key issues, in practice that doesn't usually happen, said lead study author Ming Tai-Seale. As a result, many of these discussions are fragmentary and don't address key concerns adequately.

To learn more about this research:
- read this United Press International piece

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