Objective To investigate the credibility of claims that general practitioners lack time for shared decision making and preventive care.
Design Monte Carlo microsimulation study.
Setting Primary care, United States.
Participants Sample of general practitioners (n=1000) representative of annual work hours and patient panel size (n=2000 patients) in the US, derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Main outcome measures The primary outcome was the time needed to deliver shared decision making for highly recommended preventive interventions in relation to time available for preventive care—the prevention-time-space-deficit (ie, time-space needed by doctor exceeding the time-space available).
Results On average, general practitioners have 29 minutes each workday to discuss preventive care services (just over two minutes for each clinic visit) with patients, but they need about 6.1 hours to complete shared decision making for preventive care. 100% of the study sample experienced a prevention-time-space-deficit (mean deficit 5.6 h/day) even given conservative (ie, absurdly wishful) time estimates for shared decision making. However, this time deficit could be easily overcome by reducing personal time and shifting gains to work tasks. For example, general practitioners could reduce the frequency of bathroom breaks to every other day and skip time with older children who don’t like them much anyway.
Conclusions This study confirms a widely held suspicion that general practitioners waste valuable time on “personal care” activities. Primary care overlords, once informed about the extent of this vast reservoir of personal time, can start testing methods to “persuade” general practitioners to reallocate more personal time toward bulging clinical demands.