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Chiropractic Research Review

Learn More by Listening

On average, U.S. doctors interrupt a patient only 22 seconds into the patient's initial explanation of their condition, possibly to prevent a lengthy and unnecessary dialogue that could back up a busy office schedule.

This recent study examined how long patients will actually speak if uninterrupted.

Fourteen doctors in Switzerland timed 335 patients from the start of their communication until the patient indicated that they wanted their doctor to take over the conversation. Patients were unaware they were being timed. The mean, uninterrupted patient talking time was 92 seconds; 78% of patients completed their explanation of symptoms in less than two minutes. At this point, most patients indicated to the doctor that they wanted him or her to take over the interview. In all cases, the doctors felt that the patients should not have been interrupted any earlier because they were providing important information. The age of the patient was correlated with an increase in talking time, with older patients taking longer to describe their problem.

Conclusion: Doctors may not be overwhelmed with complaints by allowing patients to fully explain their condition, and may gather more valuable information by listening until the patient is finished speaking.

Note: The researchers point out that this study was conducted in a tertiary care facility with complex cases, and that the talking times of patients in other care centers may actually be less.

Langewitz W, Denz M, et al. Spontaneous talking time at start of consultation in outpatient clinic: Cohort study. British Medical Journal 2002:325, pp. 682-683. http://bmj.com

Chiropractic Research Review

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