Background: Time management in ambulatory patient visits is increasingly critical. Do patients who perceive a longer visit with internists report increased satisfaction?
Methods: Prospective survey of 1486 consecutively encountered ambulatory visits to 16 primary care physicians (PCPs) in an academic primary care clinic. Patients were queried regarding demographics, health status, perception of time spent before and after ambulatory visits, whether the physician appeared rushed, and visit satisfaction. Physicians were queried regarding time spent, estimated patient satisfaction, and whether they felt rushed.
Results: In 69% of 1486 consecutive visits, patient previsit expectation of visit duration was 20 minutes or less. Patient and PCP postvisit estimates of time spent significantly exceeded patient previsit time expectation. Patients who estimated that they spent more time than expected with the PCP were significantly more satisfied with the visit. When patient postvisit estimate of time spent was less than the previsit expectation, visit satisfaction was significantly lower independent of time spent. Patient worry about health and lower self-perceived health status were significantly associated with patient expectation for longer visits. Primary care physicians felt rushed in 10% of encounters. Although PCPs estimated patient satisfaction was significantly lower when they felt rushed, patient satisfaction was identical when PCPs did and did not feel rushed. Patients indicated that PCPs appeared rushed in 3% of encounters, but this perception did not affect patient satisfaction.
Conclusion: Perceived ambulatory visit duration and meeting or exceeding patient expectation of time needed to be spent with the physician are determinants of patient satisfaction in an ambulatory internal medicine practice.