Time for Care. Length of General Practice Consultations in Australia

Aust Fam Physician. 2002 Sep;31(9):876-80.


Background: Past estimates of the length of Australian general practice consultations have been based on Medicare item numbers claimed, which carries probable serious inaccuracies.

Aims: To describe the length of general practitioner consultations.

Methods: A random sample of 926 GPs recorded the start and finish times in minutes of their consultations for which a Medicare item number was claimed between April 2000 and March 2001, within a continuous cross sectional national study of general practice activity.

Results: Mean length of the consultations was 14.8 minutes (range 1-106). Mean length per GP varied widely (mean of means 14.8, range 3-39, mode 15.0 minutes). Female GPs had significantly longer consultations than males. Younger (< 45 years) male metropolitan GPs had the shortest mean length. Most attendances (85.7%) were designated Level B, 1.5% as Level A, 11.7% Levels C and 1.1% as level D. Mean length of Level A was 7.1 minutes, Level B-13.0, Level C-26.1, and Level D-44.9 minutes.

Conclusion: This study suggests that the majority of GPs are not practising 'six minute medicine', and may assist cost projections of any changes to the Medicare Schedule.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Family Practice / economics
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs / economics
  • National Health Programs / standards*
  • New South Wales
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation / economics
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time and Motion Studies*