Intended for healthcare professionals


Spontaneous talking time at start of consultation in outpatient clinic: cohort study

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 28 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:682
  1. Wolf Langewitz (, executive directora,
  2. Martin Denz, chief executive consultantb,
  3. Anne Keller, consultant psychiatristc,
  4. Alexander Kiss, medical directora,
  5. Sigmund Rütimann, headd,
  6. Brigitta Wössmer, head psychologista
  1. aDivision of Psychosomatic Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, CH-4031 Basle, Switzerland
  2. bUniversity Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland
  3. cForel-Klinik, Ellikon an der Thur, Switzerland
  4. dDepartment of Internal Medicine, Kantonsspital, Schaffhausen, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: W Langewitz

    The average patient visiting a doctor in the United States gets 22 seconds for his initial statement, then the doctor takes the lead.1 This style of communication is probably based on the assumption that patients will mess up the time schedule if allowed to talk as long as they wish to. But for how long do patients actually talk, at least initially? We found only one study, from a neurological practice, investigating this question.2 The author reported one minute and 40 seconds. We examined how long it would take outpatients at a tertiary referral centre to indicate that they have completed their story—for example, with a statement such as: “That's all, doctor!” if uninterrupted by their doctors.

    Participants, methods, and results

    We investigated a sequential cohort of patients from the outpatient clinic of the department of internal medicine at the university hospital in Basle. The study protocol was approved by the university's ethics …

    View Full Text