Can short doctor’s appointments lead to malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Blog, Failure To Diagnose

When it comes to healthcare, one of the most common concerns is patient-doctor interactions. Today, a typical doctor’s appointment may last only about 15 minutes. This raises questions about the adequacy of such short consultations for diagnosing potential health issues.

In the high-speed world of modern healthcare, doctors often face the challenge of making accurate diagnoses as quickly as they can. Is 15-minute consultation is enough for a physician to accurately determine a patient’s condition? And are there potential risks of malpractice tied to such brief encounters?

Quality over quantity

A common belief is that the longer a patient spends with a doctor, the higher the chances of an accurate diagnosis. However, research indicates that the quality of interaction matters more than the quantity. In a well-structured 15-minute appointment, a competent physician can collect a patient’s medical history, conduct a physical exam, discuss findings and plan future care.

Yet, the sufficiency of these brief appointments greatly depends on the patient’s health condition. Complex cases that require more in-depth analysis might suffer from the time constraints of a 15-minute slot.

Malpractice concerns

Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare professional makes mistakes that harm the patient. One could argue that if a doctor does not spend enough time to understand a patient’s condition, it might lead to misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment, which could potentially be a case of malpractice.

The key factor in malpractice is not the duration of the appointment, but whether the healthcare professional has breached the standard of care due to negligence or incompetence. If a doctor makes an error in diagnosis or treatment within a 15-minute appointment, it might result in malpractice. New Mexico has a Medical Malpractice Act that explains the definitions and consequences in detail.

While a 15-minute doctor’s appointment may be sufficient for routine check-ups or minor illnesses, it may not be enough for complex health issues. However, the potential for malpractice is not linked directly to the duration of the appointment, but to whether there was a sufficient standard of care in the given timeframe.


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