When people in Albuquerque go to visit the doctor’s office, the expectation typically is that whoever sees them will sit down with them, listen intently to everything they have to say, and generally take as much time as is needed to make them feel completely comfortable. They often leave such visits, however, shocked at how little face-to-face time they get with the doctor. Indeed, research information shared by the Health Research and Education Trust shows the median doctor office visit time to be only 15.7 minutes. 

The study goes on to show that of that time, 5.3 minutes typically involves the patient talking, while another 5.2 is spent by the physician talking. Taking these averages into account (as well as the fact that an average of 55 seconds is spent in silence), that allows for less than five minutes of actual treatment. Granted, not every visit is going to require extensive treatment, but in that truncated time, a doctor is expected to do a complete review of a patient’s systems, order diagnostic tests and come up with a definitive diagnosis. Given the short amount of time that this study indicates that doctors spend with patients, it may become more understandable why misdiagnosing by doctors is routinely cited as one of the biggest problems plaguing the American healthcare system. 

While pinpointing one distinct reason as to why the average doctor visit is so short may be difficult, data shared by The Federalist seems to suggest that there could potentially be a financial motive. It cites study data showing that doctors who rely in mainstream insurance reimbursement may need to see as many as 3,000 patients a year for their practices to be profitable. This may motivate doctors to focus on the quantity of patients seen rather than the quality of care delivered.