Is the potential of teenage consultations being missed?: A study of consultation times in primary care

  • Jacobson L
  • Wilkinson C
  • Owen P
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Abstract

There is a paucity of knowledge regarding teenage health even though it features as one of the priority areas in the government's health plans. There have been few reports of adolescent contacts with primary care teams, although there are impressions of a suboptimal service. As a prelude to understanding more about communication between general practitioners and teenage patients, this study aimed to look at the time spent on teenage consultations, which can be used as one method of describing the quality of care provided to teenage patients. Nine-hundred consultations involving six doctors in one surgery were timed over a 3 month period by one observer using a validated method. One-hundred and nineteen consultations with patients aged 11-19 were compared with the 781 consultations for other age groups and showed a statistically significant mean shortfall of nearly 2 minutes (23%). This trend was confirmed for all six doctors, despite a broad range of average consulting times. The study also demonstrated some other characteristics of teenage consultations. Several implications of these results are discussed as well as possible reasons for these findings. The study emphasizes the need for further research in this area.

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