Crowded hospitals, overworked doctors hurting patients: Average consultation time in India among the worst

Doctors across the country are increasingly overworked, with the result that the average consultation time accorded to a patient is on the decline, a report published in the online medical journal BMJ Open has said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

This is about three short of the worldwide average of five minutes per consultation. Bangladesh with just 48 seconds is at bottom of the pile, while Sweden with 22.5 minutes is the best. Pakistan also had an average of under one minute, while China was just over one minute, the survey said. Singapore at two minutes also fared worse than India. The Scandinavian countries routinely outperformed other nations in the world, while the US at 21 minutes fared admirably.

With doctors spending less time at diagnosing people's ailments, the patients are resorting to self-medication, overuse of antibiotics and depending on pharmacies to help resolve their complaints, the report said.

"Little can be achieved in less than five minutes, unless the focus is largely on detection and management of gross disease," the researchers suggested. "An average of five minutes may be the limit below which consultations amount to little more than triage and the issue of prescriptions."

Experts across India said they were not surprised by the study's findings. "It's well-known that patients get less time with doctors due to overcrowding in hospitals," health commentator Ravi Duggal was quoted by The Times of India as saying. He added that doctors at public hospitals even end up consulting multiple patients simultaneously due to overcrowding. "It is, therefore, not uncommon for doctors to mix up symptoms between two patients," he said.

Former Maharashtra Medical Council member Suhas Pingle also blamed overcrowded clinics and an overburdened healthcare system for this problem. "Consultation length will obviously be shorter because there are only so many hours that a doctor can work," the general physician was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Updated Date: Nov 09, 2017 14:59 PM

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