IMAJ | volume
Journal 4, April 2006
Background: Physicians in the community work on a tight and often pressured schedule; verbal and non-verbal techniques to terminate the patient-physician encounter are therefore necessary.
Objectives: To characterize ways of terminating the encounter.
Methods: Using a structured questionnaire we observed seven family physicians and nine consultants and recorded patient-physician encounters to assess techniques for terminating the encounter.
Results: In all, 320 encounters were recorded, 179 (55.9%) by consultants and 141 (44.1%) by family physicians. The mean duration of the encounters was 9.02 ± 5.34 minutes. The mean duration of encounters with family physicians was longer than consultants (10.39 vs. 7.93 minutes, P < 0.001). In most cases the encounter ended with the patient receiving printed documentation from the physician (no difference between family physicians and consultants). Consultants were more likely to end the encounter with a positive concluding remark such as “feel good” or “be well” (P < 0.01). There was no single occasion where termination of the encounter was initiated by the patient.
Conclusions: Giving a printed document to the patient appears to be perceived by both patients and physicians as an accepted way to end an encounter. Another good way to end the encounter is a positive greeting such as “feel good” or “be well.”