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Pediatricians Play Beat The Clock During Checkups

Feeling rushed at the doctor's office? No wonder, if you're there with an infant or toddler.

A third of parents say the last well-child visit with the doctor lasted 10 minutes or less. About half said the checkup lasted 11 to 20 minutes. That leaves about 20 percent who say the visit took longer than 20 minutes. The findings appear in the latest issue of Pediatrics.

Every minute counts when you think about how much information a pediatrician is supposed to get — and impart — during these checkups . During the 15 years that ended in 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics added 53 new things that pediatricians are supposed to work into the conversation during well-child visits.

So how did they do?

The researchers, who analyzed interviews with more than 2,000 parents, found that regardless of the length of the appointment, key info on vaccinations and breastfeeding was brought up more than 80 percent of the time.

The longer the visit, the more different types of information got across. So, for instance, talking about use of car seats happened about 63 percent of the time during short visits compared with 82 percent of visits at least 21 minutes long.

Still, even during longer visits, there were shortfalls in screening for a child's progress in hitting developmental milestones — only 70 percent of the time was that done in visits that lasted long 21 minutes or more. In the shortest vists, it happened only half the time.

Now, there were some limitations to the work, the researchers note. They asked parents to remember visits that were up to one year old, and the data were collected in 2000.

Finally, what did parents have to say about their satisfaction with the visits? Longer was better. Even so, 4 in 5 parents whose kids had the shortest visits were still satisfied overall with the results.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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