• Journal Article

The changing nature of physicians' office visits


Mitchell, J., Schurman, R., & Cromwell, J. (1988). The changing nature of physicians' office visits. Health Services Research, 23(4), 575-591.


Although there is a general feeling that, into the early 1980s, overall improvement was occurring in the content and quality of physicians' services, no time-series documentation to date has appeared to support this assumption. This article provides empirical evidence that physicians' office visits were in fact changing over time, though not in ways that one might expect. Rather than involving more diagnostic services, such as laboratory tests and x-rays, the typical office visit had come to include more therapeutic services, especially counseling. This is consistent with the observed increase in time spent with patients: between 1974 and 1981, the average office visit increased in length by nearly one full minute. Multivariate analysis indicates that the typical office visit was changing largely because physicians themselves were changing. Not only were physicians becoming increasingly specialized, but they were also more likely to be female, in group practice, and board-certified