It could also be that more medically complex patients tend to schedule appointments in the afternoon, the researchers say. Or maybe doctors and patients both experience “decision fatigue” late in the day, which means it’s hard to make difficult decisions — like one about your health — when you’ve already been overloaded with a day’s worth of questions and problems at work or at home.
“They’ve been making decisions the whole day,” says Dr. Mitesh Patel, a physician and health economist at the University of Pennsylvania, and the senior author of the cancer screening study. Patients “might say, ‘I don’t want to talk about cancer screening today, but let’s talk about it at the next visit.'”