Obamacare may make those few moments your doctor gives you even briefer

When you visit your doctor’s office, do you sometimes get the feeling you’re in an old Marx Brothers movie? You know, that classic one where Groucho sings, “Hello, I must be going”?

Well, you’re not alone. It seems that quickie office visits have now become standard practice in the medical profession.

These days, many primary-care physicians schedule their appointments 15 minutes apart, and some have been asked to spend no more than 11 minutes with each patient. “Doctors have one eye on the patient and one eye on the clock,” according to David Rothman, a specialist in the history of medicine.

This medical assembly line goes back to a change made in Medicare over 20 years ago, which downplayed the actual time spent with patients. The situation was then made even worse by insurance companies and HMOs.

And with all those new Obamacare signups, it looks like your doctor will have even less time to give you. That’s because under the new plans, doctors will be expected to see more patients, but paid less money for each.

So if you scheduled your visit months ago and have a whole list of question for your doctor, better talk fast. A study found patients of family practices had just 23 seconds to speak to their doctor — and only one in four got to finish what they were saying. And that was 15 years ago!

To get the most out of your visit, experts suggest avoiding Mondays and Fridays, and trying to get the first appointment of the day.



“You’re on the clock: doctors rush patients out the door” Roni Caryn Rabin, April 20, 2014, USA Today, usatoday.com