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Satisfaction higher if patients choose appointment length

22 February 2013

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Asking patients to choose their preferred length of consultation could lead to increased satisfaction levels for both the patient and GP. 
Published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), the study suggests if patients are invited to choose between 5, 10, 15, or 20-minute consultations when making their appointment it leads to improved time management for GPs. 
“The results of this study suggest that there may be a number of benefits to be gained by giving patients greater responsibility for choosing the length of their appointments,” lead researcher Dr Rod Sampson said. 
Patient care
More than 170 patients who visited Cairn Medical Practice in Inverness over a five-week period were allowed to choose their consultation length. 
GPs and their patients gave feedback on how the consultation length affected patient care. 
Both doctors and patients reported an increase in patient empowerment and improved time management during the appointment. 
Researchers noted that there were ‘concerns’ about the accuracy of timing choice, and said that patient education would be ‘beneficial’.
Dr Rod Sampson said: “Educating doctors, reception staff and patients on how best to use such a system, for the benefit of both doctors and patients would seem necessary.”
Dr Sampson added that allowing patients to choose their consultation length “may not meet all the needs of doctors or patients”. 
Professor Roger Jones, BJGP editor said the study has potential to “shake up” perceptions of patient choice. 
However he added that the study was not large and more research needs to be doe “over a large number of GP practices and over a longer period.”