Docs: Taking time to listen to patients pays off

Although the typical office visit is a frantic sprint for many doctors and their patients, some physicians have made a deliberate effort to slow down.

Rob Lamberts, a primary care physician in Augusta, Ga., takes an alternative approach to the high-volume, insurance-paid care most doctors provide, outlined in a Washington Post story.

Lamberts does not accept insurance and charges patients between $30 and $60 per month for whatever care they need, according to his website.

In order to make this business model work, Lamberts told the Post that he will need to reduce his patient panel to no more than 1,000 patients. And although he's a fan of 'medical minimalism'--avoiding unnecessary tests and visits--he said he always gives patients the time they need, even if it stalls his schedule.

Lamberts said he'll use whatever means he can--texting, phone calls or house calls--"to keep people as people, not as healthcare consumers."

Meanwhile, North Carolina primary care physician Gregory McGriff told North Country Public Radio that as a black doctor in a mostly white community, he needs to invest more time in building patients' trust than his white colleagues.

"I make a point to do something that many of my partners don't do--most physicians don't do anymore. I sit," McGriff said. "I sit in the room, and I ask the patient to tell me their story."

After hearing patients out, McGriff spends an additional 20 to 25 minutes conducting a physical exam, which he said has given him a "well-deserved reputation" for being one of the slower physicians.

Going the extra mile for his patients, he said, has made him a better doctor.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post story
- here's the NPR story