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Ann Fam Med. 2005 May-Jun;3(3):209-14.

Is there time for management of patients with chronic diseases in primary care?

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  • 1Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.



Despite the availability of national practice guidelines, many patients fail to receive recommended chronic disease care. Physician time constraints in primary care are likely one cause.


We applied guideline recommendations for 10 common chronic diseases to a panel of 2,500 primary care patients with an age-sex distribution and chronic disease prevalences similar to those of the general population, and estimated the minimum physician time required to deliver high-quality care for these conditions. The result was compared with time available for patient care for the average primary care physician.


Eight hundred twenty-eight hours per year, or 3.5 hours a day, were required to provide care for the top 10 chronic diseases, provided the disease is stable and in good control. We recalculated this estimate based on increased time requirements for uncontrolled disease. Estimated time required increased by a factor of 3. Applying this factor to all 10 diseases, time demands increased to 2,484 hours, or 10.6 hours a day.


Current practice guidelines for only 10 chronic illnesses require more time than primary care physicians have available for patient care overall. Streamlined guidelines and alternative methods of service delivery are needed to meet recommended standards for quality health care.

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