Health Policy

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 1057-1062

First online:

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The ethical significance of time for the patient-physician relationship
  • Clarence H. BraddockIIIAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Lois SnyderAffiliated withAmerican College of Physicians

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Many physicians and health care leaders express concern about the amount of time available for clinical practice. While debates rage on about how much time is truly available, the perception that time is inadequate is now pervasive. This perception has ethical significance, because it may cause clinicians to forego activities and behaviors that promote important aspects of the patient-physician relationship, to shortcut shared decision making, and to fall short of obligations to act as patient advocates. Furthermore, perceived time constraints can hinder the just distribution of physician time. Although creating more time in the clinical encounter would certainly address these ethical concerns, specific strategies—many of which do not take significantly more time—can effectively change the perception that time is inadequate. These approaches are critical for clinicians and health systems to maintain their ethical commitments and simultaneously deal with the realities of time.


medical ethics time management patient-physician relations