Sitting down with your doctor may soon be a thing of the past. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in England is piloting a program that will give height-adjustable desks to a select group of physicians. A team from Loughborough University is leading the study, which will evaluate how standing appointments impact both patients and general practitioners (GPs). 

The hope is that the sit-stand desks will encourage doctors to be more active (thus setting a good example for patients), prompt conversations between patient and GP about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, and shorten the average appointment length.

Study Expects Standing Appointments To Be a Win-Win

Amanda Daley, professor of behavioural medicine at Loughborough University, said “[We know] that GPs spend a long time sitting down during the working day — which can contribute to poor health outcomes — and evidence suggests that doctors often neglect their own health.”

Standing desks may help GPs spend more time on their feet, which will in turn demonstrate to their patients the importance of breaking up sitting time with movement. The researchers are hoping to see a win-win for physicians and patients alike.

Daley went on to say, “We want the GPs to be standing in their job … but obviously the extra bit is also being a role model, getting the patients to be more active, or certainly standing more.”

The initial study will span four to six weeks with GPs having access to the desks in half-day sessions. Participating physicians will be asked to rate their well-being, productivity, and activity levels both before and after using the standing desks. Patients will also be surveyed as they leave the appointments. 

The study will also investigate whether standing desks could shorten the length of appointments. Researchers predict the average length of consultation will decrease from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.

Standing Appointments Are Not for Everyone

Researchers are aware that standing appointments won’t be appropriate in all cases. For example, when doctors are meeting with patients who are elderly, disabled, or receiving bad news, it may be more appropriate to conduct the appointment sitting down. It will be up to the doctor’s discretion to determine whether to remain standing for each appointment on a case-by-case basis.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chairwoman, said “[We] need to be mindful that the GP-patient consultation relies on high quality face-to-face communication, and in some cases, this will not be achieved if the GP is standing while their patient is sitting down.”

Doctors: A New Standing Desk Niche

Although the results of the study are forthcoming, we suspect this will prove to be the beginning of a new trend. With the potential benefits to both their patients’ and their own well-being, it seems like a no brainer! In the next few years, we expect to see more and more doctors adopting height-adjustable standing desks in their clinics — a new, promising niche for standing desk vendors. 

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