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Study: Short patient visits and quality of patient care

When a patient makes an appointment with his or her primary care physician, the tension level at that visit is usually lower than on visits to a specialist, a surgeon or a hospital facility. After all, primary care physicians are most often associated with preventative medicine and therefore these office visits often feel less threatening for patients.

Unfortunately, failure to take these office visits seriously can lead to serious consequences. A recent study indicates that physicians' rate of failure to diagnose various conditions at the level of primary care is highest when certain elements of these office visits are not given proper consideration.

The study was published in last month's Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine. Its authors have determined that primary care physicians are often bound by time restraints that limit their ability to dig into the more mysterious elements of any given patient's condition.

The basics of a primary care physician visits tend to be the most pressing in terms of forming a correct diagnosis. When physicians fail to properly conduct elemental processes of a visit, the highest rates of missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis occur. These processes include patient medical history and physical exams. Proper follow-up and referrals are important too, but ultimately it is the most basic foundations of a visit in which primary care physicians make mistakes that lead to incorrect diagnoses.

It is therefore critical for physicians and patients alike to take primary care visits seriously. Failure to do so could lead to needlessly tragic consequences.

Source: Amednews.com, "Primary care time squeeze explains errors in diagnosis," Kevin B. O'Reilly, March 11, 2013

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