Opinion: 15-minute appointments hurt patients, physicians

The 15-minute physician's appointment is hurting healthcare, according to Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, anesthesiologist, critical care physician and senior vice president at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Pronovost, who additionally serves as a professor and director of Johns Hopkins' Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, puts the 15-minute appointment in perspective: "How would you react if you sent your sputtering car to the auto mechanic, and they stopped trying to diagnose the problem after 15 minutes? You would probably revolt if they told you that your time was up and gave back the keys."

The problem with short, timed appointments is they are detrimental to meaningful conversations between the patient and physician — the kind of conversations that get at the root causes of medical issues and lead to the development treatment plans, according to Dr. Pronovost. Perhaps the biggest issue is that the 15-minute appointment was not even born out of best practices, he wrote. Rather, it was a response to "production pressures."

Not only do short appointments starve patients of valuable care, they also put a burden on physicians and add to burnout, Dr. Pronovost wrote.

While some alternative solutions exist, such as concierge practices and direct primary care, they could also make the physician shortage worse, he wrote. Nonetheless, the industry needs to experiment and see if new models of care can help do away with the 15-minute appointment, Dr. Pronovost wrote.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

Cleveland Clinic, Froedtert to affiliate
Physicians unsure how to initiate end-of-life care discussions: 7 findings
8 key concerns for physicians in 2016

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