Time and feasibility of prevention in primary care

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Abstract

Background.

Prevention is an essential task in primary care. According to primary care physicians (PCPs),lack of time is one of the principal obstacles to its performance.

Objective.

To assess the feasibility of prevention in terms of time by estimating the time necessary to perform all of the preventive care recommended, separately from the PCPs and patient’s perspectives, and to compare them to the amount of time available.

Methods.

A review of the literature identified the prevention procedures recommended in France, the duration of each procedure and its recommended frequency, as well as PCPs’ consultation time. A hypothetical patient panel size of 1000 patients, representative of the French population, served as the basis for our calculations of the annual time necessary for prevention for a PCP. The prevention time from the patient’s perspective was estimated from data collected from a previous study of a panel of 3556 patients.

Results.

For PCPs, the annual time necessary for all of the required preventive care was 250 hours, or 20% of their total patient time. For a patient, the annual time required for prevention during encounters with a PCP ranged from 9.7 to 26.4 minutes per year. The mean total encounter time was 75.9 minutes per year. Nearly 73% of patients had a prevention-to-care time ratio exceeding 15%.

Conclusion.

Feasibility thus differs substantially between patients. These differences correspond especially to disparities in the annual care time used by each patient. Specific solutions should be developed according to the patients’ utilization of care.

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