A doctor’s visit is a matter of time

A doctor’s visit is a matter of time

Take heart the next time you find your sleepy self at the doctor’s office at an early hour. Turns out, the early bird might get a higher quality of care.

That’s according to Penn State University researchers who examined thousands of patient visits to primary care clinics. They focused on patients who were eligible for either colon or breast cancer screenings.

The researchers say it shouldn’t matter what time of day you visit the doctor. But, apparently, it does.

No matter what practice they examined, they found the same thing. Doctors were more likely to order screening tests like a mammogram earlier in the day. Take breast cancer screening. According to the study, 64% of women seen by their physician at 8 a.m. left with an order for a screening. The number plummeted to 48% for those seen at 5 p.m.

The same was true for patients eligible for colon cancer screenings. The numbers started at 37% as the workday began, dropping to 23% as it ended.

Researchers say this phenomenon has been seen in other studies. These same scientists also found a drop in the number of flu vaccinations as the day progressed. Evidence elsewhere also indicates providers wash their hands less frequently near the end of clinical shifts.

One culprit in the decline in cancer screens ordered might be doctors’ schedules. Later in the day, they may get behind, leaving less time to talk to patients. They also cite decision fatigue. This phenomenon occurs when, after a long day of making good decisions, we start to make poorer choices.

So, next time you see the doctor at 8 a.m., stifle a yawn and keep the griping to a minimum. It’s a healthy hour.

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