Background: General practitioner (GP)-led primary care is the linchpin of health care in Ireland. Reflecting international trends, there are increasing concerns about the sustainability of the current Irish GP service due to an increasing workload. Objective data on the duration of GP consultations are currently not available in Ireland. The objective of this pilot study is to demonstrate how the duration of consultations can be collected, using readily available administrative data.
Methods: Software was developed to extract the duration of GP consultations using the opening and closing of electronic patient records associated with a GP consultation. GP practices (N = 3) comprising 15 GPs were recruited from a university-affiliated research network. A retrospective analysis of GP consultations with patients with diabetes for the 9 years between 2010 and 2018 was used to assess the feasibility of using this system to measure the duration of consultations.
Results: The average duration of a consultation was 14.1 min for the 9 years spanning 2010 to 2018. Patients had an average time between consultations of 99 days.
Conclusions: This pilot study confirms that an administrative data set can be utilised at negligible cost to monitor GP practice consultation workload over time. Our preliminary pilot data show that GP consultation durations among participating practices were longer than the 5-11.7 min reported in the UK and show an increase over the period. Clearly, a larger number of practices and patients are required to substantiate this finding.