The Time taken for a Doctor Consultation

If you had an ailment and is seeking a doctor’s consultation to get yourself back to good health, how much time would you like the doctor to take? That is from the moment you enter the doctor’s cabin to the time you walk away from him?

That depends, isn’t it?

Because, if you’re consulting a doctor at a private hospital or a clinic, you’d want your doctor to spend some time examining you and then prescribing the medicines. You’d expect that simply because you had paid for the consultation and you want to get good health-care for the money you spent.

What if you were staying near a government hospital? You decide to visit the nearby primary health centre for getting medicines for the nasty flu-like illness that has been bothering you for the last two days. How much time would you expect the doctor to examine and prescribe?

Now, you got my point right?

Readers of BeingTheDoctor might already be knowing that I work at such a government institution, a primary health centre. I’ve already writen about a few common out-patient department scenarios in a public hospital and you can find it here. I don’t know about other doctors who work in similar conditions, but this article is about what I feel about the marathon out-patient consultations.

Last week, I saw a fellow doctor’s post in our WhatsApp group about how he had to see-off 230 patients in 5 hours. That’s right!

Let’s do some math, shall we?

OP time in all government hospitals is now from 9 AM to 2 PM and that comes to 300 minutes. Imagine examining 230 patients in 300 minutes! Yeah, less than one and a half minute for every patient. Thirty seconds for history taking, 20 seconds for examinaiton and another 20 seconds for writing the medicines. Add to that five seconds for writing the OP number, name, age, sex and diagnosis in the OP register maintained by the same doctor. Super skilled and ultra fast! Don’t you think so?

But this is the reality and this has happened at a PHC in Kerala when the other doctor posted at there was on leave for that day.

If two doctors were present on that day, let’s assume both of them would have seen 116 patients in five hours. That comes around to two and a half minutes per patient. A bit more relaxed situation, I reckon.

Coming back to our PHC, we have just 150 patients on peak days and there are 2 doctors (myself included). We also have a medical laboratory and for all such hospitals where a lab is functioning, you’ll have to add the time taken to review the patient who comes back with the lab results. Minor surgical procedures like wound-repair, incision and drainage etc takes up extra time. Most of the days, I stretch my spine after 5 hours of continous “sitting” and believe me it feels damn good doing so.

When the other doctor is also there at the OPD, I thank my lucky stars because I get more time to deal with each patient. Even then, I feel as if I’m not doing justice to them.

I’ve always wondered what the patients feel when a doctor sees them off within 60 seconds. Does the literally free consultation and medicines warrant just that much? or, is that simply enough for them? All I can say is that, they’ve never complained.

Would you be satisfied if your doctor did the same thing with you when you’ve paid 300 INR just for the consultation?

There’s an old saying in Malayalam which goes like this – “Don’t count the donated cow’s teeth”

So, that’s it. What do you think? Have you ever been to a busy government hospital? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

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