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Doctors often fail to let their patients speak

According to one study conducted by Florida researchers, doctors give patients only seconds to explain their symptoms and conditions before interrupting. While many patients have complained of feeling rushed during a doctor's appointment, it could have real consequences when physicians do not listen to their patients' detailed descriptions of their own experience. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, assessed the beginning minutes of consultations between 112 patients and their doctors over a seven-year period between 2008 and 2015.

The study included video review of the initial minutes of these consultations, and the researchers measured the extent to which doctors allowed patients to guide the agenda of the discussion. While the researchers allowed patients to set the agenda in 36 percent of cases, all patients were interrupted an average of 11 seconds after beginning to speak. Those patients who were not interrupted spoke for only approximately 6 seconds. In general, primary care physicians allowed their patients to speak for a longer time explaining their situations than specialists. This could be because specialists generally have some level of detail about the case in advance.

The researchers noted that it is possible for physicians to interrupt their patients productively in order to bring more focus to the appointment or clarify a situation. However, when interruptions take place early on, it may discourage patients from sharing key information. The result could be a misdiagnosis or an improper treatment.

Doctors' decision-making can play a major role in the effectiveness of their treatment decisions. When a physician does not listen to the patient or take a full view of his or her medical circumstances, doctor errors can become commonplace and even dangerous. People who have suffered worsened medical conditions due to a physician error may speak with a medical malpractice attorney about the potential to pursue compensation for their losses.

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