Parents report hasty visits with pediatricians

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: December 19th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Did you feel rushed the last time you took your child to the pediatrician for a check-up? Turns out you’re not alone.

According to a recent study, about one-third of parents said their last well-child appointment with their doctor lasted less than 10 minutes. About half said the visit was between 11 and 20 minutes, and only 20 percent of parents got longer than 20 minutes with the doc.

The time crunch seems especially frantic when you consider how many topics pediatricians are expected to cover during their brief time with their young patients. In the 15 years leading up to 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics added 53 items that doctors are supposed to cover during a routine check-up. These can range from psychosocial issues to the level of physical activity the child is receiving.

The study tallied up how the pediatricians did on this checklist and found pretty good results. For example, no matter how short the appointment, key issues such as breastfeeding and vaccines were brought up about 80 percent of the time.

Of course, more information was discussed during the longer visits. For example, when visits were at least 20 minutes long, the use of car seats was brought up about 82 percent of the time. When the visits were shorter, that only happened 63 percent of the time.

Still, no matter how long the visit, there were some gaps. Only 70 percent of longer visits included screening for important developmental milestones, and the percentage dropped to 50 percent for the shorter visits.

Despite what you might think, parents were pretty happy with their visits, no matter how long they lasted. In fact, while most agreed that longer was better, four out of five of those who had the shortest visits still reported being satisfied.

A longer visit is ideal, but the quality of the time a doctor spends with a family is still the key part of a successful visit.