Indian patients get just two minutes with their doctor on average.
India falls far short of the majority of nations when it comes to the length of time a patient can expect to spend with a doctor. An appointment with a doctor at the primary care level was found to average out at around 2 minutes finds a study published in the British Medical Journal Open.
In stark contrast to India’s average, Sweden, the US and Norway each have an average consultation time of more than 20 minutes. Some countries, such as the UK, fall at a mid way point at around 10 minutes per appointment.
The quality of healthcare infrastructure in India varies significantly between states. In some states, free healthcare is provided. For the many below the poverty line in India, access to these free or highly discounted services are a lifeline. However, vast numbers of people will be seeking to access the services, and so the time doctors can spend with a single patient will often be limited.
India is not the lowest of the pile in terms of doctor’s appointments. In the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the study found the situation to be far worse. The two nations had an average consultation time of 48 seconds and 1.3 minutes respectively.
The study notes that 18 countries, comprising 50 percent of the world’s population, have an average consultation time of less than five minutes. India and China account for the bulk of the population that falls under this average time, with numerous developing nations across Africa and Asia comprising the rest.
The finding has been described by the study’s authors as a critical factor which damages healthcare in developing nations. Short appointment times mean patients may not receive adequate treatment or diagnoses, adding to the burden of both noncommunicable and communicable diseases. Mistakes may also be made when a doctor is expected to make a decision on treatment within a couple of minutes. This could lead to worsening health issues.
Besides the potential for providing sub par treatment due to time shortages, a rapid flow of patients may also be causing tension for the physicians. Physician burnout, a condition that involves extreme fatigue and stress among doctors, is a real possibility under these conditions. When doctors are fatigued, mistakes are far more likely to happen. When lives are on the line this can lead to tragic scenarios.
If India, as well as the other nations with dangerously low consultation times, wish to alleviate the issue, investment into recruiting more physicians will be vital. In some states such as Uttar Pradesh, the state government is attempting to fill vacant physician’s positions. Recently, the state government announced 2,000 new doctors would be recruited. Efforts such as this, if made on a national level, could vastly improve health services.
Nicholas Parry has a Bachelor of Science in genetics from the University of Sheffield and a Master of Research in neuroscience from the University of Nottingham. He has been a featured writer for Health Issues since 2016. He is based in South Wales.