I had to take off a half day today because of a doctor’s appointment. My appointment was at 10:45a. I got there at 10:30a, and to my dismay, the waiting room was chock full. Crap, sez I. So I turn in my paperwork and insurance card, break out Fortune’s Favorites by Colleen McCullough, and travel off to ancient Rome while I wait.
They look busy, nurses bustling back and forth to take patients back to the inner sanctum, but I keep checking my watch and begin to fume. I decide to give the doctor until 11:30a, then I will walk out, explaining to the receptionist while I’m leaving and that I will call to reschedule (not.) As luck would have it, I’m called back at 11:20am, which is perilously close to the time I have to leave to make it to work on time to make it a true half-day.
I mention this to the nurse and she says she’ll get the doctor in to see me as fast as she can. Sure enough, he does, he spends all of 90 seconds with me, and darts off to write a prescription.
I make it to work on time, but I won’t be going back to this doctor. His overbooking 1)Made me wait way past my appointment time 2)Cut short any quality time I may have had with him to discuss my history 3)Is a poor management of his time and mine.
Doctors will cancel your appointment and may charge you if you show up late for an appointment, but have no qualms about making you cool your heels in the waiting room.
And before anyone jumps in about how emergencies arise, this was an appointment with a dermatologist. Unless I’m mistaken, there are no skin emergencies that would necessitate a delay in seeing booked patients.
Ugh - yeah, I’ve left at least one doctor because of the overbooking (among other things).
Some things I’ve learned:
Try like heck to get the earliest appointment in the day, if at all possible. You’ll still be made to wait at least 10 minutes, but it’s better than 20 or 40.
If you are a woman who is not going to (not just “not planning to”) get pregnant, do yourself a favor and find a gynecologist who is not also an obstetrician. It might be difficult, but at least you’ll never have your appointment cancelled after you’ve waited for 45 minutes because “Doctor had a patient go into labor, so he’s over at the hospital.”
As ivylass and I have both done, don’t hesitate to “fire” a doctor who pulls this shit on you. Your time is valuable, too.
I always try to get the last appointment of the day. Yeah, half the time the doctors are running late, but then I get all the attention. They don’t get to go home until I’m happy. And I get to catch up on the *Southern Living * and *Better Housekeeping * articles!
The same thing happened to me last time I saw the dermatologist. His office always overbooks and the waiting room is always full of angry people. It’s the bad vibes in the waiting room as much as the wait itself that gets to me. I finally told the receiptionist I would call back to reschedule, and I never have. I’m never going back there.
I work at, lo and behold, a dermatologist’s office. While I’m empathetic to the situation of having to wait much longer than you’d expected, some people need to realize that there are factors they may not have considered.
Some insurance companies, mostly HMOs, pay a flat rate for the doctor to see a certain number of patients. Some doctors have to overbook in order to maintain that payment.
There are many, MANY patients that wander in 15, 20, 30 minutes late for their appointments. We usually see them anyway, unless the doctor has to be out of the office at a specific time. This can create moments when the doctor is in his office with no patients to see, and then instantly all his rooms are full and he’s “behind”.
Yes, even in dermatology, there are often emergent or complicated cases which require more than the alloted 15 minutes of the doctor’s time. Rest assured that should YOU come into the office with a problem that commands more than 15 minutes, our doctors will be happy to spend whatever time they need to with you.
It seems to be so common for people to wait to see a doctor, that quite frankly I wonder why more patients don’t automatically assume there will be a wait, and schedule their day accordingly. Sometimes life sucks, get over it.
One, if another patient is more than 10 minutes late, they should be told to fuck off and reschedule. Why should I have to wait an extra hour because 4 other people weren’t on time?
Two, is the “flat rate” schedule from HMOs and the like not flexible? Does a doctor have no opportunity to say “Realistically, I can see 30 patients a day, so that’s the rate I’ll work from” rather than “I want to make X amount of dollars a day, so I’ll sign up for the patient quota that gets me that amount”?
Three, at what point is it a “reasonably expected wait” instead of an unreasonably long time? Not everyone can afford to take an entire day off of work for what should be a 10 minute appointment in order to account for the doctor’s overbooking. It’s not like Saturdays are usually an option.
I’ve had plenty of doctors offices where I never had to wait more than 30 minutes at the very most, and then it was in unusual circumstances. And I’ve left several practices - frankly, because their attitude seemed to be “suck it up and get over it.”
Okay, if you insist on being pissed and showing your ass if made to wait, that’s fine with me. However, the receptionist, the medical assistant or nurse, and office manager have no control over how long you wait. Only the doctor controls his movements, and it’s the doctor that negotiates the contracts with the insurances. So, instead of pouting, whining, raging at the staff and then, when the doctor comes into the room being all nicey-nice and schmoozy with him, please be nice to the staff, who are only doing their jobs, and go ballistic on the doctor. Maybe that’ll convince him to change things, maybe not. But he’s the only one who can change things in his office.
The only time I have ever shown my irritation to the staff is when I was pretty sure they knew ahead of time that the appointments were running very late (or that Doctor had to run to the hospital for an emergency C-section or the like), and they didn’t tell me. I don’t think there’s any excuse for that.
I don’t think I gave any indication that I’ve ever been anything but friendly with the staff. I realize wholly that they have no control over the situation. That doesn’t mean I won’t leave the practice if it’s status quo - and that’s not a move against anyone but whoever it is that made the decision that having patients waiting for hours is not a problem that bothers them. But if I ask the receptionist “Should I keep waiting? I have another appointment in an hour,” and she looks at me like I’ve just pissed blood in her coffee, I might not be smiling at her when I leave.
If I had left, rest assured, I would have politely explained things to the staff. I realize it wasn’t their fault. In fact, I’m half thinking of calling and explaining why I won’t be back, but I doubt it would do any good.
At our office, we will make an announcement to the waiting room if a doctor is running more than 45 minutes behind, and give the option of rescheduling.
(I can’t personally do it, as I have a morbid fear of public speaking, but I’ll get the receptionist to do it.)
I missed your earlier post. I didn’t mean to imply that you personally were mean to the staff, sorry. I’m glad you’re not. It’s the worst part of my job when patients treat me like crap over a situation I didn’t create, nor can I fix.
This is part of why I love my primary care physician. Is another patient with an earlier appointment than me late? Has my appointment time arrived? Am I on time for my appointment? Guess who sees her first? Me. She’s so awesome.
It might, it might not. The staff might well tell the doctor what the problem was (if it was with him) or try to adjust their behavior.
I happen to work in an ophthalmology clinic in a hospital/medical center, and helped see patients today. Part of the problem with ophthalmology is that typically you have to come in, get dilated, then sit for 15-30 minutes before the doctor can even get a look at you, depending on what you’re being seen for. Cornea, not necessarily; retina, definitely. I also make sure to explain to our patients when the doctor is running late and apologize for the delay, and as much as possible, tell them why the doctor is late. (He’s coming over from another clinic and traffic is nasty/he had emergencies at the other clinic and left late/he had 3 emergency walk-ins come in here today/etc.) I also work to make sure that patients are doing the least amount of “sitting around with nothing to do” time. When I’m working with a doctor who’s slower, I’m sitting in the back fretting about the waiting patient(s) and trying my best to move things along. I also tell our patients how I get my own medical care done at the facility and so definitely understand what it’s like to be in their position.
I don’t have much in the way of concrete advice to give, however, beyond what’s been said. All doctors are different and thus tactics to help you with one doctor might not work with another.
At a previous job in pediatrics, a woman once called about booking her child, and asked me my opinion on which of our doctors was best. Now, I wasn’t going to say “stay away from Dr. _____!” but I wasn’t going to list that one as a best. However, I did honestly tell her which of the doctors I thought was best and most personable. The problem with him was that he had good bedside manner to the point of being chatty, and he was popular and thus overbooked constantly. She asked if she’d have to wait to see him, and I think my more-or-less exact words were, “I’ll be honest, he always runs behind schedule. This is because he’s popular with parents and patients, and while you’re waiting, he’s taking as much time as someone needs to explain what is wrong and what the options are, and so when he’s in the exam room with you, he’ll do the same for you.” She went with that doctor.
That reminds me of the one time I got (minorly) pissed at my OB’s office. I signed in right after another lady who had walked in at the same time I did. It was 10:55. My appointment was for 11:00, and her appointment was for 11:15. The OB saw her first. Is that the standard procedure, or was I right to be irritated? I’ve never been sure, so I’ve kept my mouth shut about it.
I’m kind of confused. It’s the fault of the doctor, but not the rest of the staff. Isn’t one of those staff members (and NOT the doctor) the one who actually would be responsible for booking, and thus overbooking, appointments? Unless your doctor is actually the one fielding phone calls and making the appointments, in which case, that kind of makes sense.
It can be the fault of the doctor. Some doctors will insist that you book X patients within a certain time period, and then not be fast enough to get through all of them - even without emergencies, complicated cases, etc. Other times, you might get patients who insist that you speak to the doctor to see if you can squeeze them in on a particular date, and the doctor says go ahead and do it. (The reason why you don’t blow off the patient is the patient will whine to the doctor and then you’ll get chewed out.)
Sometimes, depending on the specialty, it might be emergencies, with some help from too-heavy clinics. At my last job, once the regular appointment slots were full we kept emergency slots open until the week of the clinic, but almost without fail we overbooked those because you’d get too many patients coming in at the last minute. There would be the parents who would miss appointment after appointment and then suddenly they needed something for their kid (phy ed waiver, bussing request, clearance for sports, social security benefits, etc.) and they’d shriek about how their kid needed to see the doctor - conveniently whipping out the form for the doc to sign once they were at the visit. Then you’d get the parents who’d miss visit after visit after visit and the kid had a serious health condition, and you’d send out the letter mentioning a possible tip to child protective services, and suddenly the parent would call in pissed/panicked/both and insist that this week was the only time they could come in, and the doctor wouldn’t want to pass on seeing them once they were willing to show up for once.
Depending on where the doctor is, their clinic time may be limited due to the space being used by other physicians and/or being booked other times elsewhere. At the last job I mentioned, we had three mornings a week for 4 doctors, and we’d typically spill over into the early afternoon due to overbooking, and piss off the doctors who were supposed to be holding clinics at that time, but there was simply no other available time we could be there. Pediatrics had only so much space in the clinic, and other pediatricians had the other time/room slots.
My brother was kept in the waiting room by his doctor who was running hopelessly late. When the doctor came out and called him to go in he looked up from the magazine he was reading and loudly said, “Look I’m in the middle of a really interesting article here. You go back to your room and wait and I’ll come in when I’m ready.” The doctor looked dumbstruck. My brother put down the magazine and walked over and said, “My time is valuable too.”
He said that half the people in the packed waiting room looked ready to kiss him.