Background: Although consultations have increased in length, patients still express dissatisfaction with how much time they spend with their doctor.
Objectives: This study aimed to explore aspects of consultation time and to examine the correlates of patients' desire for more time.
Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional design was used. General practice patients from eight UK practices (n = 294) completed a questionnaire following a consultation regarding their satisfaction with the consultation, their beliefs about how long the consultation lasted (perceived time) and how long they would have preferred it to last (preferred time). The actual consultation length (real time) was recorded by the doctor.
Results: The majority of patients underestimated how long the consultation took, and a large minority stated that they would have preferred more time. When controlling for both real time and perceived time, a preference for more time was correlated with a dissatisfaction with the emotional aspects of the consultation and a lower intention to comply with the doctors recommendations. It was unrelated to satisfaction with the information giving and examination components of the consultation.
Conclusion: Patients' dissatisfaction with consultation length could be managed by making consultations longer. Alternatively, it could also be managed by changing how a given time is spent. In particular, a doctor who listens and tries to understand their patient may make the patient feel more satisfied with the consultation length and subsequently more motivated to follow any recommendations for change.