13 Minutes

American Healthcare

The average doctor spends 13 minutes with each patient. That’s all the time you have to discuss health issues, trends, and medication refills. Thirteen minutes for your doctor to ask the appropriate questions and correctly diagnose the problem. Just thirteen minutes. A review of 2018 data suggests that most U.S. physicians spend between 13 and 24 minutes with patients. About 1 in 4 spend less than 12 minutes, and roughly 1 in 10 spend more than 25 minutes. All in all, it seems like doctor-patient time isn’t changing substantially.

Studies have shown that people want to discuss sexual health concerns with their physician, but constraints like time, embarrassment, or not having the language to express what’s happening push those concerns to the back of the pack. As expected, medical disparities like access and financial resources hinder low-income communities, and Black people have the least amount of face time with their physicians.

It doesn’t help that doctors are also not comfortable discussing sexual health. Taking a complete sexual history is the first step toward appropriate diagnosis and therapeutic intervention for most patients and is a fundamental part of holistic care. If doctors are missing this step, we will potentially see a massive gap in care being unaddressed. 

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Imagine having only 13 minutes to review everything you saved up the copay for. I often go to the doctor and don’t have the time to talk about everything that is going on. I have to rank my gripes based on livelihood, severity or pain, and price of treatment. This is the fate of many Americans who pay high premiums to still suffer due to the lack of care and commitment of the healthcare system.

In a 2015 study on medical students titled Are medical students confident in taking a sexual history: An assessment on attitude and skills from an upper middle-income country, 95% of students felt it was important to know how to take a sexual history, but only 46% of the students believed they had the training to do so. Doctors are admittedly ashamed to ask the necessary questions to treat sexual health issues. If the patients don’t have the time and the doctors are uncomfortable, guess who loses? Yep, you. 

It is essential that our healthcare system understands the importance of sexual health and makes the changes to add this care to the verbiage of each visit. Personal opinions should not interfere with someone’s right to be holistically treated. Your doctor SHOULD be asking about your sex life and if it has changed, the same way they ask about sleep habits.

Advocating for Yourself

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Diagnosis for this condition can take up to 10 years. That’s years of excruciating pain, heavy bleeding, fatigue, and other symptoms. Another nugget, erectile dysfunction, is considered a clear indicator of future cardiac events. If you are experiencing ED, your vascular system needs to be checked out ASAP. These instances are both reasons why advocating for yourself is so important. Your sexual health is important. If you are experiencing desire issues or pain during sex, let your physician know! That’s their job, and you standing on business about your sexual health could very well save your life in just 13 minutes.


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