Waiting for the doctor - how long is too long?

I had an appointment for 2:30 today. I got there at 2:20. It was 3:35 when they put me in the other room and 4:00 when the doctor finally showed up. IMO, an hour and a half is waaaay too long. Could you imagine if the line at the grocery store was 1:30 long? Or if a restaurant waited 1:30 before giving you your food? Would you want to come back to those establishments?

So please tell me I’m not crazy. Please tell me that 1:30 is absurd and I have a right to be pissed. And please tell me how long you normally wait for your doctor, and at what point you start getting pissed off.

Good grief, that IS a long time! I understand that shit happens, but did they at least give you some reason/excuse?

It is totally absurd. Absent a reason given (“Ma’am, I’m so sorry for the delay, but the Doctor has an emergency she’s dealing with. Would you like to wait or reschedule? It will probably be about an hour before she can see you.”*), I’ve never waited more than half an hour for a doctor to at *least *get me back to the exam room. I’ll leave, and tell them to shove their cancellation fee where the sun don’t shine.

My last pediatrician’s office got wise to me, and started putting us in the exam room fairly quickly and then letting us stew back there for an hour before the doc came in. I guess they thought I wouldn’t put my kid’s clothes back on her and leave. They were wrong. And I now have a new doc in a new office.

*I used to work the front desk at an alt medical office, and this was my spiel. The patient didn’t need to know that the “emergency” involved her forgetting to pick up her kid from school, but they did need to know there would be a wait, and make their own choice about whether to stay or reschedule.

I would think 30 minutes. While it should really be on-time, things happen during appointments and sometimes things take longer than scheduled. I DO NOT want fries with that, and DO NOT expect drive-thru, checkout line service. I want the doctor to spend as much time with other clients as I expect her to spend with me, if I have extra stuff needed during my appointment, or have extra questions that may take some extra time to go over.

What I DO expect, is if appointments are running long, that the person running the desk tell me so. If you’re running an hour behind, TELL ME, maybe even CALL ME well before my appointment time to tell me to come an hour later. My doctor’s office assistant has been known to call in the morning if the afternoon apps are going to run late, and if she didn’t have a chance to get a hold of me ahead of time, she’ll have me check in and then I can leave for an hour and come back while still keeping my “place” along with everyone else.

I was much more upset about this kind of thing before my wife was the emergency. However, they should be able to give you a fairly good estimate of wait time, and let you reschedule if there is an emergency.

The only time I’ve waited at my clinic a nurse did come in and tell me - and I could hear the doctor having a long, serious discussion with the patient in the room next door. (Not well enough to hear many of the words.) So I tend to cut them some slack.

I just had to deal with this yesterday. My mom had an appointment at 11:30, the receptionist said the doctor was running about 90 minutes behind. We went out and got some lunch, were halfway finished when they called my cell and said to come back. Then another emergency for the doc. Then we had to leave for another treatment appointment across the street. Finally did see him.

And I’m pretty much okay with that. Stuff happens that no one can predict. I had a dentist appointment once when it took me two hours to get numb. I know my mom’s doctor wasn’t trying to jerk us around, and with two appointments we were gonna be in the area most of the day, anyway.

Don’t get me started on drug coverage and a mail-order pharmacy, though. That’s worthy of a Pit thread.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who don’t take well to it when a doc tries to treat medicine in an assembly line fashion.
If only we could be like, “You have the sniffles? Here’s your prescription, now GTFO! NEXT!” to some of the more obnoxious and demanding patients, I might have gone into primary care.

As a resident I had to do some time in a primary care clinic. Sometimes it takes longer to talk things out with patients. Sometimes things aren’t as simple as they sounded on the phone when the patient made the appointment. Sometimes they wait until the last minute to bring up something important. There were a few times when I had my day disrupted by one of the attendings coming to me saying, “Yes, this guy missed his appointment, but he looks REALLY sick, so I think you should see him. We don’t want him to end up in the hospital.” It’s not like docs are making you wait to spite you. They don’t get to go home until all the patients are seen, after all.
If you can’t afford to wait, the best times are usually the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch.

I had an initial specialist appointment that went much like the OP’s post. I was highly annoyed. Right up until I actually saw the doctor. She asked questions, she answered questions, and then asked some more questions. I immediately felt better about the wait.

When I left, I asked the staff if she always ran 90 minutes late, they said it varied and the next time to call before I left for the appointment.

I work 2nd shift. When I schedule an appointment I always make sure to let the receptionist know that I have to be out of there by 2pm or else I will be late for work, and I let them pick a time that will allow me to be out in time. I don’t see drs very often, but I’ve never yet been late to work because of one. A couple times I’ve waited up to 30 minutes, but the appointment was scheduled with a probable wait in mind.

I would go up and speak to the receptionist at the 30 minute mark, if my wait ever surpassed that. But my appointments tend to be earlier in the day. It’s a lot easier to be in and out with a minimum of delay when you have an 11am instead of a 430pm time.

Typically, IME, it isn’t up to the doctor how long you wait for an available room. The nurses and nursing support staff (nursing assistants if there are any) determine when you get put in which room. That’s probably true of most places unless you really think the doctors clean/prep the exam areas between patients…

Clinic back ups are a common problem but it isn’t always because of over-booking or money-grubbing or people not giving a shit about their patients or whatever else gets tossed out in these types of threads. It’s because of the mother who (through know fault of her own; she’s not a doctor) starts obsessing about Junior’s every sniffle and whine and thinks that every single little thing is a relevant sign or symptom so an appointment that was scheduled to take just 15 minutes turns into this big thing about poop and “What’s this thing here on his skin?” and now that doctor’s whole day is totally fucked even IF every other case is super easy, in and out (which, of course, they won’t be).

There’s isn’t a real solution except to really try hard to not be a part of the problem yourself but, unless doctors and nurses are going to REALLY start slacking on patient care, you’re always going to be behind the old man who is so hard of hearing (like, nearly deaf) that it’s difficult for him to understand the patient teaching, which then takes 35 minutes instead of the 10 minutes the nurse had before YOUR appointment was scheduled to start. Or they could start seriously under-booking, but then you’re waiting 8 months for an appointment. Not really feasible.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be made aware that everything is behind and you’ve likely got a wait ahead of you. And you could ask. Clinics around here actually encourage that by posting signs that say if you’ve been waiting more than 15 minutes you should see the receptionist. Just don’t be a dick to her; it’s DEFINITELY not her fault.

I’ll cut docs a LOT of slack if the staff keeps me in the loop about delays. I usually schedule my MD appointments first thing in the morning, though, so I haven’t had any trouble from my current doc.

If I had to choose, though, I would rather wait an hour and have the doc sit down and actually listen to me than to get into an exam room quickly and be interrupted, blown off and herded out 10 minutes later.

An hour and a half is definitely unreasonable, OP – you should at least have been given an explanation. I also hope once the doc did walk in that you had their undivided attention.

If all these delays are so typical and understandable, maybe doctors should just schedule fewer appointments.

I have this problem with my dermatologist. It takes half an hour to be taken to an exam room. Then half an hour to be seen. Then he “sees” me for five minutes and checks of boxes on a script template and then walks out. I’ve seen him three times, always the same. Does’t matter what time of day. I understand emergencies, and hell my internist always has twenty minute wait times, but she spends a lot of time with you. I see the dermatologist once more in a few days, and I suspect it will be the same and then I’ll go see someone else.

Waiting areas generally (and not just at docs) can stand considerable redesign–and complaints about waits would be considerably reduced if we didn’t allow and expect that waiting is naturally a torment.

30 minutes maximum. As far as I’m concerned an appointment is an informal contract. If I’m not seen in that time by the doctor then I will leave and reschedule unless I’m terribly ill and in immediate need of prescription. Doctor’s have no more business wasting my time than anyone else. I suggest they don’t book as closely and better manage their time if this is a problem. Tell Mrs Jones you’ll have to wrap it up, her time is over, there is no emergency, and she can make another appointment or wait for a free moment to discuss it further.

I did go into primary care, and while you can’t quite say that, you can do a lot to keep things moving. It’s a skill you have to develop. You have to be blunt sometimes. and I’m sure I’ve pissed a few people off, but a 15-minute appointment doesn’t get you the whole day. I’d rather piss off one inconsiderate patient than every scheduled patient who comes after him that day.

That’s true unless your doc also sees patients at the hospital, in which case the first morning appointment is a crapshoot.

I’ve told my staff at both the clinics I’ve worked in that if patients are being seen more than 30 minutes after their appointment time, they need to treat it as a problem and try to fix it. If it’s happening a lot, it needs to be treated as an ongoing problem and fixed. In my experience clinics that see patients later than that tend to do so every single day and with remarkable consistency, because it comes to be accepted as normal. After 30 minutes I expect a better excuse than “we’re very busy today”.

It was a nasty winter in Seattle and I had a bad case of pneumonia…and I was homeless at the time. I stumbled into the Urgency Care ward at the city hospital, coughing up grey and red, and an hour later they brought me back and told me to strip and put the gown on, which I did. I sat on that bed and waited. And waited. And waited.
Four hours and twenty five minutes I waited in that cold cubby hole. There wasn’t even a door-just a curtain, so it wasn’t as if they thought the room was empty. When the PA finally popped in, she spent a total of six minutes looking me over, then told me that I should take some cough syrup and stay in bed for the weekend.

The boss at my last job built a clinic with far more exam rooms than it needed. His theory was that patients got far madder if they had to wait in the waiting room than if you brought them on back to an exam room and made them wait there. He wanted every patient to be put in an exam room ASAP, even if they had to wait for an hour in there for the provider. On a busy day they might have ten patients waiting in ten rooms for a single provider.

I thought he was crazy–I’d much rather wait in the waiting room, which has a television and magazines and slightly more comfortable chairs. But it was pretty clear that he was right.

Doctors routinely schedule their appointments so that they can’t keep to the schedule and run late.

My brother went to see his doctor and fell foul of this. He waited and waited…and waited. Eventually the doctor came out and called his name. He looked up from the magazine he was reading and said, “I’m in the middle of an interesting article. Go back to your office and wait for me and i will come in when I’m ready.”

The doctor looked stunned. So my brother added, “Oh, isn’t that convenient? Is your time far more valuable than mine? OK, I’ll make an exception. This time.”

No, of course they’re not cleaning and prepping the room. But they are generally *in *the room so that the staff can’t clean and prep it. OR they’ve triple booked themselves so all three of their rooms are filled with “the” 3:00 appointment time.

Again, I have *lots *of compassion for emergencies that come up, and of course I want the doctor to give each patient as much time as s/he needs. What pisses me off is overbooking. If I have to wait for an hour one visit out of four, that’s entirely understandable. If I’m waiting far past my appointment time every single visit, I’ll save us both some trouble and schedule my appointments with a doctor who isn’t so overloaded with patients or has to handle so many “emergencies” every single day.
And yes, I also understand that if a doctor doesn’t at least double book, he feels he can’t make enough money to keep his office running due to cancellations. Still, that’s *his *problem, part and parcel of being a clinician. Obviously, there are solutions to this problem, because not *every *doctor’s office has this problem.