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Thread: How long a wait is acceptable at a doctor's office?

  1. #1

    How long a wait is acceptable at a doctor's office?

    My appointment for a consult with a new doctor was for 11:15. I showed up at 11:05 knowing I would need to do some paperwork. Finished the paperwork in about five minutes so now it's 11:10.

    At 12:15, after inquiring and being told the doctor is still with other patients, I walked out. No communication up to this point such as "the doctor will be xx minutes, sorry for the inconvenience". Nothing.

    My position - on time is great. 15 minutes is probably to be expected. 45 minutes is pushing it.

    But I feel an hour's delay (with no end in sight) is downright unreasonable and inconsiderate of the patient's time.
    Am I the one being unreasonable here?

    Unfortunately, I don't have a relationship with this doctor because it was my first visit. So I just don't know if the delay was unusual or typical.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Is this doctor a surgeon or a specialist that might have to respond to an true medical emergency over a scheduled patient visit? Sometimes there are really important reasons for a doctor's delay even if they are just a general or family practitioner. Say somebody shows up for a scheduled appointment and has an infection that might require immediate treatment. For reasons of patient privacy laws (HIPPA) staff are severely limited in what they can say other than "The doctor is with another patient right now." They can't say "she or he is lancing a boil right now or cleaning a wound." Beyond that there is a tremendous shortage of doctor's nation wide.

  3. #3
    The problem is whether you really need to see that doctor or whether you can make another appointment or go to another doctor.

    What I use to do after waiting a reasonable time is I'd go to the desk and tell them that we need to make another appointment because I can't wait any longer. That usually caused them to get me into an exam room immediately. If they would leave me in the exam room, I'd walk out.

    The doctors dislike having any dead space in their appointments because that's time when they're not earning anything. So the front desk overbooks and expects that people will wait.

    I understand that things happen and sometimes the doctor is delayed. If that happens, the front desk has to get proactive and keep people informed and maybe reschedule some of the appointments - not just leave people waiting and wondering.

    If you can walk (you don't really need to see that doctor immediately) that's the best thing to do. And then go to another doctor who has more consideration for their patients.

    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  4. #4
    I was sent to a very fine orthopedic specialist many year ago. After an hour wait we were told the doctor had to take care of an emergency but was trying to catch up. At the 2 hour point I went and told the people I couldn't wait any longer and was leaving. I would expect a refund check for my copay to be mailed to me. They hustled me right into an exam room. After another 20 minutes and no doctor I told them I had to leave since guests were coming from VA. I left, got a refund check a week later, and called my primary care doc for anther referral to another specialist who saw me on time. Things happen, but physicians also have to realize patients are paying customers and they are just a vendor who can be replaced. Disregard for the customer is inexcusable in any field of endeavor.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    N.E, Ohio
    Years ago we had an appointment with a dermatologist for my son. We had a 7:30 pm appointment. We arrived at 7:10. The office was packed, not a seat available and people were even waiting in the hall. I asked several of the others waiting and found out they all had appointments for 7:30. We waited never went back.

    Making sawdust regularly, occasionally a project is completed.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Baltimore, Md.
    I have been a frequent flier lately to various doctors. My Oncologist referred me to an Urologist to remove my right kidney. The day before surgery I had to take laxatives and drink magnesium nitrate to clean out. Also no eating after midnight. My surgery was to be at 3:30pm.
    At 11:30 on the day of surgery he calls me and wants to change it for two days later. No this is not ok I told them. I did not get taken into O.R until 6pm. My wife took vacation to be with me, waiting two days would have wasted her time. Today I had a 10am appt. for follow up and was not seen until 11. I think this guys wait times are unreasonable and have told him so. He blows it off. Hopefully I only have a few more visits to his office.

  7. #7
    We have a local hospital that has a pharmacy. Huge place with lots of seats. You sign in and wait for them to call you.
    After a long wait they sometimes call you for more info. Most think they will be getting their medicine and are grumpy about waiting longer. I have vowed to never go there again ,but the Docs there kinda push the place to patients. Few
    years ago a couple was put through the hospital's sick little joke. The man complained loudly. A security guard ,with no
    warning picked the guy up and slammed him to the floor. Head first and he died right there. The guard is in prison,and I
    sincerely hope it's one with poor medical care. I can't say what an acceptable wait would be, some might have been killed

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    Many years ago my medical provider, and still my current provider, was very bad about being able to get an appointment in a timely manner. Often if you were sick they wouldn't be able to fit you in for three weeks or more. For many people it was easier to just go to the ER to be seen. There was usually only an hour wait or less to be seen in the ER. The ER would always be full of people with minor conditions because no one could get an appointment less than three or more in the future. If you had something serious, you might be worse by then. If you had a bad flu you might be over it by then.

    Finally the management seemed to take notice of the problem and set out to rectify the situation. One of the things they did was to raise the copay on ER visits. They also hired more doctors so appointments would only be a few days out at most. Currently if my regular doctor is booked a second doctor or qualified nurse is usually available. We seldom are in the waiting area more than a few minutes. Once in the exam room the wait is also short. So it is possible for a medical center to be managed efficiently if the management wants it to be done.

    Scheduling multiple people for the same appointment time is not efficient nor is it thoughtful management. Making people wait an hour without any explanation is rude.

    My solution would be to send the doctor a note letting them know their's isn't the only time that is important and include a bill for my time spent waiting. After all, time spent in their waiting room is keeping me from earning the money that is needed to pay their bill.

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    NW Indiana
    Some doctors offices are just poorly run and they do not care. Others try to be on time and apologize for being late. At a minimum, they should let you know about how long you will wait. I have some doctors who are normally very good but once in a long while they get behind. I can deal with that.

    It is kind of like some people who are always late to everything.

  10. #10
    I've been to appointments where I am told when I arrive that the provider had an emergency and is running late, and given the opportunity to reschedule or wait. I think that's a professional way to handle those types of situations. Even better would be a phone call. When I encounter a practice where longs waits are common, I vote with my feet and make sure the provider knows why I am changing. Fortunately I live in an area where there seem to be medical practices of all kinds on almost every corner (don't get me started about what that does to health care costs).

    On the other hand, my wife is a midwife who primarily teaches but sees patients several times a month at a couple of local clinics. It is not unusual for half of her scheduled patients to be no-shows, or last minute cancellations. It is clinic policy not to overbook, so when a patient doesn't show, my wife is left with stretches of time with no patients to see. So I can understand why some practices choose to overbook, taking the risk that all the patients will show on a given day and people will have to wait. Sort of like the airline system.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    We have been fortunate that our primary care practice has been reasonably efficient and "in general", any waits are acceptable because we know they do take the time with patients/clients to fully discuss things without pressure to finish up. We know that because that's how they treat us, too. They are also staffed well with doctors as well as PAs and CNPs as well as quite a few nurses and other staff. Most specialists have been good with our time, but our older daughter's dermatologist recently was so backed up it was nearly an hour wait beyond her appointment time. Had it gone on any longer, we would have had to leave because my daughter had to go to work. To top it off, it was a 5 minute visit with the doctor after all that.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    I dont think you are being unreasonable Edwin. Your time is money. You are the customer. A doctor isnt (usually) doing you a favor seeing you - he's being paid for his time. Specialists can be different but there's a limit there too IMO,
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  13. #13
    Both of our primary care doctors are very good about scheduling. Even have signs in office, that if it's more than 15 minutes past your appointment, step to the window and let them know. Today had to go to urologist for a follow up visit. When we got there not only wasn't doctor there, but building was completely demolished. After a couple of phone calls, found out they had moved two buildings down. Somebody dropped the ball on telling me that they would be moving, when I was there three weeks ago. Made appointment on time, but still had to wait an hour. Appt was to go over ultrasound results, which showed I had a 7 MM stone if left kidney, and 9MM stone in right kidney. CAT scan only a month earlier showed neither, so we knew ultrasound was wrong. Even though ultrasound was totally wrong, I'm expected to pay my co payment for ultrasound. Two years ago, had pneumonia, and needed to have surgery to drain and scrape lung sack. Surgery was scheduled for 4:30 PM, but surgeon had problems on another surgery at another hospital that was on the other side of town. He gets to my hospital at 8:30PM and does surgery. Sunday morning, I'm scheduled to go home. On Saturday doctor comes by and says she will be by EARLY on Sunday to get out of there. A little after 1:30 PM she gets there. She had been in emergency room with her child till 8:00 that morning, so she was late, which is forgiven. What really "frosts me" when they call and tell you to only bring insurance card and photo ID for a procedure. Then when you get there they inform you that you have a co pay due before services are to be rendered. So which one are they going to use, my insurance card, or my photo ID to process the copay, as they said to only bring insurance card and photo ID? As part of a recent procedure in hospital, I picked up a staph infection. Read Medicare rules on staph infections. They don't pay for them, period! But doctor's office still wants me to pay co payment for second visit which wouldn't have been necessary if I hadn't picked up staff infection. Doctor is employed by hospital group, FYI.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Sterling, Virginia
    The game here in Virginia is they have the nurse bring you in and take all your vitals, ask what you are here for, put you in an exam room and then tell you the doctor will be "right in". Never been quicker than 15 minutes but they count it as on time.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kansas City
    Most of the private practices around here have been bought up by corporations. Doctors are told how many patients to see in a given amount of time, and how long they can spend with any patient based on the reason for the visit. All tracked and computerized so that the docs get reprimanded if they don't produce. Last doc I saw complained bitterly how he can't do the medical care he wants because the management and insurance companies dictate everything.

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