Keeping patient appointments to seven minutesBMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7465.s100-a (Published 04 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:s100
As an inner city, full time general practitioner raising three children, writing books, and running courses, I need to manage my time efficiently. Here are my tips on how to keep patient appointments to seven minutes. They should apply whether you're in general practice or in a hospital outpatient clinic.
Be aware of the time at all times—use your wristwatch, a wall clock, or a computer monitor
Keep your consultation room well stocked with forms, stationery, and supplies
Improve your typing skills.
Delegate tasks. If you need to get hold of an outside line at the hospital, ask reception staff to ring and transfer the call to you
Use all available resources—colleagues and the internet. Ring a colleague in the surgery or at the hospital for advice. Use the Google search engine to log on to medical websites for current information
Be firm with late attenders. If a patient is more than 10 minutes late reception staff should tell the patient to rebook or put the patient on the emergency list if they cannot wait
Be firm with patients with lists. Ask patients to list the items, inform them that it is a seven minute consultation, and ask them to select the most important item and to rebook for the rest
Be firm with time wasters. Do interrupt and regain control of the consultation
Use non-verbal (body language) and verbal forms of communication to ensure patients feel as though they are being heard
Complete all paperwork and dictate referrals in front of each patient. Use their time and not yours
Delegate to the patient. Hand the patient any forms or samples to give to reception
Housekeeping—take mini-breaks in between patients
Call in sick if you are unwell.
Argue with the patient—for example, over antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections. Pick your battles or you will burn out
Feel as though you need to do everything NOW.