Background: We examined the variables related to patient satisfaction with the time spent with their family physician during the office visit.
Methods: Research nurses directly observed consecutive patient visits to 138 family physicians in 84 practices. Analyses examined sequential models of the association of patient and physician characteristics, visit type and length, and time use during visits, with patients' satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their physician.
Results: Among 2315 visit by adult patients returning questionnaires, patient satisfaction with the time spent with their physician was high and strongly linked to longer visits (P < 001). After controlling for visit duration, greater patient satisfaction with time spent was associated with older patient age, white race, better perceived health status, visits for well care, and visits with a greater proportion of the visit spent chatting. The physician's discussion of test results or findings from the physical examination was associated with greater satisfaction with time spent for visits longer than 15 minutes, but with less satisfaction with time spent for shorter visits.
Conclusions: Physicians can enhance patient satisfaction with the amount of time spent during an office visit by spending a small proportion of time chatting about nonmedical topics, and by allowing sufficient time for exchange with the patient is feedback is necessary.