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The Waiting Game: Why Do Patients Have to Wait?

The Waiting Game: Why Do Patients Have to Wait?

We all know it’s bound to happen: waiting at the doctor’s office. We all try to prepare. We book the first appointment in the morning or right after lunch, we get there early, we book far in advance.

Nevertheless, it still ends up happening: you fall victim to the waiting game. However, there are many reasons as to why appointments run late. And, there are ways to help avoid waiting the next time you visit your physician.

Below are some instances that contribute to a longer wait time for patients, along with solutions you can do to help eliminate waiting or shorten your wait time.

Physician discovers something that wasn’t expected during the visit.

For instance, if you are going to see your provider for a lump and it ends up being a large abscess, this is additional time the provider will spend with you to address the unexpected matter. This could impact another patient’s scheduled appointment time, causing the provider to fall behind.

Make sure to address high priority concerns when scheduling your appointment and at the beginning of your visit. Be clear about how you are feeling and what you are seeing. The more the medical staff knows, the more prepared they will be for your visit. It is a team approach.

Patients arrive late to their appointment.

Many patients show up at their actual appointment time, which automatically causes a delay. The registration process typically takes a couple of minutes. By the time a patient is registered, called back and gets weighed/talks with the medical staff, it may be 15 minutes past their scheduled appointment time, which causes a domino effect on the following appointments.

In addition, if you’re a new patient, the registration clerks will need to make copies of your insurance card, ID, etc. to have proper documentation for your electronic medical record.

You should arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. If you’re running late, give the office a call to let them know so they can send the next patient in front of you if they have to. Make sure to have all of that documentation handy if you’re a new patient or if you have a new insurance provider.

Patient mentions high priority item while less complex visit wraps up. This is sometimes referred to as the “OH WAIT!”

For example, if you’re going to see your provider for an annual well visit, and at the end begin discussing chest pains, shortness of breath, etc., this could cause a delay and concern from the provider. The patient visit may be scheduled for a 20 minute routine appointment slot but due to their comments about much more severe symptoms at the end, this could spiral into a 45 minute visit.

Communicate when booking your appointment. If you feel you have multiple symptoms going on, make sure the office and providers are aware. This way staff is able to allocate appropriate time to address your treatment plan. The more information the provider’s office has, the more concise of a plan the medical team can develop and implement to get the patient feeling better.

The physician is performing a surgery.

Your physician may have an urgent case that could potentially delay or cause a need for a reschedule depending on the situation. For instance, if you come in for a routine GYN appointment and your doctor gets called for an urgent C-Section. The physician now has to leave the clinic and tend to the urgent patient and will not be available for an office visit. This could also happen if the physician is on-call and is the only surgeon available for a procedure that needs to be done.

Be prepared and flexible that if your doctor is a surgeon, they may have to run out for an unexpected urgent procedure. 

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