Trend: Primary-care docs spending more time on visits

Here's something that may surprise you--and came as quite a surprise to your editor. Apparently, family doctors have been taking more time with adult patients of late, and seeing them more often, as well. Even better, they seem to be improving the quality of the visits, according to a new study.

The study, appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has concluded that patients spent more time with primary-care physicians in 2005 than they did nearly a decade before. A research team led by Dr. Lena Chen of the University of Michigan Health System looked at the quality of care provided by primary-care doctors between 1997 and 2005, analyzing data on 46,000 primary-care visits.

What they found was that during that period, visits to primary-care doctors increased 10 percent, rising from 273 million visits in 1997 to 338 million in 2005. The average duration of visits with adults grew by 16 percent, from 18 minutes to 20.8 minutes.

Patients' time with the doctor went up 3.4 minutes for standard check-ups; for diabetes diagnoses, visits increased by 4.2 minutes; for high blood pressure care, visit times went up 3.7 minutes, and for a diagnosis of joint disease, the visit lengthened by 5.9 minutes.

This is very interesting. It doesn't suggest that a medical-home model isn't needed, of course, but it does seem that we may have a bit less to make up for than originally thought. On the other hand, if reforms dramatically increase the demand for PCPs, will these gains disappear?

To learn more about this study:
- read this HealthDay News piece 

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