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Doctors Don't Let Patients Talk

An interesting study has been done recently, which has shown that American doctors who walk into an exam room to interview a patient give the patient an average of 22 seconds before they take the lead in conversation. Is this because they are afraid patients will delay the doctor's schedule?

In fact the majority of patients who are allowed to speak more than 22 seconds have finished their story within 2 minutes.

In this study of 335 patients seen by 14 doctors only 7 patients talked more than 5 minutes.

It was concluded that even in a busy practice driven by time constraints and financial pressure, 2 minutes of listening should be possible.

I have always felt that it is important to allow the patients in the exam room time to explain the problem as fully as possible that brings them to the office, without repeated interruptions from the doctor.

In fact the most important aspect of the office visit is and always has been gathering patient history.

Of the 3 things that we use in our practice to evaluate a patient, that is the history, the physical examination and x-rays, the history is the most important.

There is an old saying in medicine, which is still true today. If you listen to the patient, he or she will tell you the diagnosis.

It is incumbent upon each of us who are seeing patients in clinical practice to allow the patient sufficient time to explain their symptoms to us without our repeated interruptions. Of course, we need to ask pertinent questions to elicit further information that the patient would not necessarily give, but this does not mean that we, the physicians, need to dominate the conversation either.