NU Online News Service, Nov. 6, 4:05 p.m. – Patients’ face-to-face time with the doctor averages around 12 minutes, about 30 seconds less than the average morning shower, reports a Pennsylvania Medical Society survey of 330 physicians this summer.

The society, in Harrisburg, found that seven out of 10 doctors take additional time to follow up with patients after their office visits. Sixty two percent prefer to do this by phone, but 32% says they use their own Web sites and e-mail.. Younger doctors and primary care physicians are by far more likely to contact patients between visits, while surgeons are the most frequent Internet communicators. Urban doctors, specialists and older physicians are likely to spend more time with patients in the office, the society’s study found.

Ninety-four percent of respondents depict their relationships with patients as good or excellent.

But 40% of the physicians polled said they spent more time with patients when they first began practicing medicine. Only 12% said the duration of patient visits has increased.

Some physicians blame shrinking office visits as a major force eroding patient-doctor relationships. The biggest factor in this loss of time, 40% said, were HMOs and the managed-care approach to medicine.

“Having to generate more money due to decreased reimbursements by the insurance companies is the primary cause of decreased patient time,” says one doctor.

“How can an insurance company decrease reimbursements by 8% when our medical liability insurance rates just went up $100,000 per year?” asks another.