Objective: Consultation time has a serious impact on physicians' work and patient satisfaction. No systematic study of consultation time in general practice in Slovenia has yet been carried out. The aim of the present study was to measure consultation time, to identify the factors influencing it, and to study the influence of the workload of general practitioners on consultation time.
Design: A total of 42 general practitioners participated in this cross-sectional study. Each physician collected data from 300 consecutive consultations and measured the length of the visit.
Setting: Forty-two randomly selected general practices in Slovenia.
Subjects: Patients of 42 general practices.
Main outcome measures: Average consultation time in general practice in Slovenia; factors influencing consultation time in Slovenia.
Results: Data from 12 501 visits to the surgery were collected. A quarter of all visits (25.5%) were administrative. The mean consultation time was 6.9 minutes (median 6.0 minutes, 5%-95% interval: 1.0-16.0 minutes). Longer consultation time was predicted by: patient-related factors (female gender, higher age, higher level of education, higher number of health problems, change of physician within the last year), physician-related factors (higher age), physicians' workload (absence of high workload), and the type of visit (consultation and/or clinical examination).
Conclusion: Consultation time in general practice is short, and depends on the characteristics of the patient and the physician, the physician's workload, and the type of visit. A reduction of high workload in general practice should be one of the priorities of the healthcare system.