An interesting question asked by a consultant starting her own private practice.
And a question I couldn’t really answer.
What I could do was interrogate, based on a month’s worth of outpatient clinic lists for existing clients, how long-established private consultant surgeons allowed for consultations.
A number of different specialisms were covered. They included: three orthopedic surgeons (one foot, one knee, one hand). An ENT surgeon. A gynecologist. A dermatologist A GI surgeon, and an ophthalmologist.
The average time for an initial consultation was 30 mins.
Some were under 20 mins. Some much longer. But the average was 30 mins. To further investigate why I asked each consultant why it took as long as it did?
And got precisely the answer I expected. Some patients required more time to examine, explain and discuss their condition than others. Not one consultant allowed a “maximum” amount of time.
When asked why, for example, they had allocated the length of time they actually had, most made the same comment. It was based on their experience together with the recommendations from colleagues whom they had asked.
To get an understanding from a private insurance perspective, I asked the same question of various insurance companies.
They too shared the view that 30 minutes was about right. All had no fixed time “allowance” for an initial consultation. Two, however, were concerned that one consultant only allowed 20 minutes for an initial consultation.
The same process was followed when the question of follow up consultation was examined.
Unsurprisingly, the time taken for a follow-up consultation was shorter.
The average time taken was 20 minutes. One consultant allocated just 10 mins; another 30 mins.
Yet across the various specialisms, the average was around the 20-minute mark consistently.
Again, insurance companies were asked the same question regarding follow-up consultations. Again there was no fixed time “allowance” for a follow-up consultation.
But the question remains for the consultant setting up her own private practice relevant. Why?
If she had allowed 60 minutes for a consultation, she would see only two patients per hour.
At say £125 per consultation, she would charge £250 per hour.
But if she allowed 20 minutes per consultation, she could see three patients each hour. She would be able to charge £375 per hour i.e. 50% more (£125/£250)
Whilst 60 minutes for a single initial consultation is most likely not required, it is the principle being looked at. The same would prove true of follow-up consultations if the fee were £95 per consultation.
Two per hour = £190 whereas three per hour = £285.
Paradoxically, I have a somewhat pragmatic view as I suggested to the consultant just starting her practice. It is highly unlikely she would have so many patients as to require the question to be investigated as we have done here.
No MHM client, I’m very pleased to say, actually cared how long the consultation took. And that is how it should be. They were only concerned with providing the best medical care and attention they can.