Our health system has a serious problem, and it’s called “lack of time”.

From a doctor’s visit, people usually expect three things:

  1. To be able to explain all their symptoms (and to be carefully listened to!)
  2. A physical examination or additional questions from the doctor
  3. An effective therapy or professional advice


Unfortunately, these expectations are rarely met today. One of the reasons for this is the enormous time pressure that doctors suffer. Taking time for a thorough analysis of the situation? An empathic response to the patient’s distress? Usually simply not possible due to lack of time.

No time for patients

A meta-analysis of 178 studies from a total of 67 countries, published by an international research team in the specialist journal “BMJ Open”, gave a sad picture: in 15 countries, including China and India, general medical visits lasted less than five minutes. Sweden is in first place with 22.5 minutes, while Bangladesh is in last place with 58 seconds.

Even with simple cases, there is hardly any time left to carefully listen to the patient’s complaints or for an accurate analysis of the medical history. However, this development becomes particularly critical when chronic diseases and nonspecific symptoms are to be treated. A differential diagnosis, in which possible causes are clarified and ruled out step by step, is just as impossible as the consideration of living conditions and nutrition.

The consequences are devastating

That as a result, a treatment under these circumstances is not as good as it could be, is not surprising and has already been confirmed by previous studies. Other negative consequences include the prescribing of several medications at the same time (to cover as many potential causes as possible) and the overuse of antibiotics. With only a couple of minutes per patient usually merely a treatment of the symptoms is possible – Without no chance to find out the underlying causes.

Especially diseases with diffuse symptoms come off badly in such a system and are often treated wrong due to the lack of time. Diffuse symptoms can include fatigue, sleep disorders and mood swings. This also happens with symptoms that cannot be assigned to their actual cause at first glance. For instance, inflammatory bowel diseases sometimes cause joint pain, food intolerance or inflammation in other parts of the body. To find the connection to the actual cause takes time, which is missing in our health system.