Interruptions during general practice consultations--the patients' view

Fam Pract. 1996 Apr;13(2):166-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/13.2.166.


Background: Although most aspects of the consultation have been extensively reported there is very little information on the effects of interruptions on the consultation.

Objective: We wished to discover the patients' view of interruptions.

Methods: In this pilot study the sources and frequency of interruptions to the consultations of a single general practitioner were measured. The effects of interruptions on 102 patients whose consultations were interrupted were then ascertained using a simple questionnaire.

Results: The overall interruption rate was found to be 10.2%. The telephone was the commonest source of interruption, accounting for 50% of interruptions. Although most patients did not perceive the interruption as having an important effect on the consultation, 20% of patients did feel that the interruption had a bad effect on the consultation and 40% of patients felt it would have been better not to have been interrupted. A majority of patients (52%) did not feel that the reason for the interruption was important. Although most patients did not feel affected by the interruption, a significant minority (18%) of patients had a strongly negative emotional response to the interruption.

Conclusions: In view of these findings the need for further work has been highlighted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards
  • Emotions
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Referral and Consultation / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires