Physicians, by their collective position in society and their individual interaction with patients, can be facilitators in helping families adopt more healthful ways of living. This study addresses the issue of the amount of time pediatricians in private practice spend with patients during well-child visits and the proportion of that time they devote to discussing potential health problems. The study population consisted of a random sample of pediatricians in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area. Observation of physician-patient interactions were made during one day in each of 23 pediatricians's offices. During the days of observation there were 305 well-child visits. The time spent with each patient averaged 10.3 minutes. Anticipatory guidance constituted 8.4% of total visit time. Pediatricians in group practice or partnerships and those recently trained spent more time with patients and a greater part of their time in anticipatory guidance. The amount of time during the well-child visit spent in anticipatory guidance varied with the age of the patient. The most time discussing potential future problems was spent with parents of infants less than 5 months of age (1 minute 37 seconds), with only an average of seven seconds being spent with adolescents. Of particular note was the lack of time spent discussing issues of safety, sex, behavior and growth. Because pediatricians spend more than 60% of their in-office time seeing patients for well-child care, they have an excellent opportunity to motivate parents and patients to change to more healthful ways of living. This opportunity will be lost however unless pediatricians reorient their priorities by addressing currently unmet health problems.
- Received January 9, 1980.
- Accepted March 10, 1980.
- Copyright © 1980 by the American Academy of Pediatrics