The New York Times – asleep at the switch?

A health report written by Eric Nagourney, and featured last week in the New York Times tells us that doctors spend almost 16 minutes with patients — at least those who are older than 65.  The patients came from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, and the study was done in three different medical situations, and 400 doctor visits were videotaped.

This took me by surprise!  I’ve only ever heard much shorter times — like 6 minutes and 7 minutes per patient.  But.  OK.  This is the New York Times, and they often tell me something I don’t know. 

But in this case?  Somebody is asleep on the switch!  In my quest to look behind the headlines (always a valuable patient tool) — I learned something very interesting.

The NY Times report cites a study done by a team at Texas A&M — published in January 2007.  I looked up the study, and found out the study was done between 1998 and 2000 !!  Are you kidding me?  That information is o-o-o-o-l-l-d !!  That’s been almost 10 years ago, and anyone who works in any aspect of health and medical care knows the medical world just “ain’t” what it was 8 or 10 years ago!

As patients, we need to prepare for a doctor visit that will likely last no more than six or seven minutes.  We need to be prepared with questions and answers.  We need to have things written down ahead of time.  We need to be concise and collaborative and efficient.  And if our doctors give us more than 10 minutes, we need to realize what a blessing that is.

And somebody at the New York Times needs to learn to read behind the headlines of a study, too.  Because there is nothing NEW about OLD information. 

The PR department at Texas A&M must be laughing up their sleeves.

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1 Response to “The New York Times – asleep at the switch?”


  1. 1 Julia Schopick February 17, 2007 at 12:43 am

    Hi, Trisha:

    I love your websites and your blog, and plan to link to all three from my site.

    I must say, though, that whether doctors spend 16 or 6 minutes per patient, the point really should be that it simply isn’t enough time – especially if they want to (a) build relationships with their patients and (b) figure out correct diagnoses.

    My Dad, who was a general practitioner in what is now known as the “good old days,” would spend as much time with his patients as they needed. It was his belief that he was like a detective, and that — in most cases — the patient and his or her family provided all the clues he needed to figure out what the problem was.

    There is no way he could have accomplished this task in 6 – or even 16 – minutes!

    What would my Dad have done if he were alive today? My guess is that he would have opted to earn less money and still spend more time with his patients.

    In general, he didn’t admire his fellow doctors. He thought they were too focused on money, even way back then. I hope you and your blog visitors will get a kick out of my article about my Dad and his views (“Medicine in the ‘Good Old Days’”), at http://301url.com/louschopick .

    I am so glad you found my site – and that I found yours.

    Julia Schopick
    http://www.honestmedicine.typepad.com


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