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Why Do Doctors Make You Wait?

Does the following scenario sound all too familiar:

You get to your doctor’s office well in advance of your actual appointment. You check in and fill out all the necessary paperwork, but 30 minutes later you’re still waiting for the receptionist to call your name.

You aren’t alone. Millions of Americans have experienced the same thing. According to, patients waited an average of 21 minutes at their doctor’s office last year, a 6 percent increase compared to wait times in 2012.

While these 21 minutes can seem like forever, it’s important to understand what your doctor may be doing. As physicians, quality patient care is our main goal and this takes attention, time and thoughtfulness. We never want anyone to wait longer than necessary, but sometimes this happens. Here’s why:

Why the Wait?

As doctors, we know that our patients’ time is an invaluable resource. That’s why we try to avoid long waits. However, our schedule can be filled with different kinds of patients with different needs. Some may require certain procedures or evaluations that can take longer than normal. Patients also may have several questions we need to answer. Rather than rushing them along, it’s important to consider a patient’s questions carefully since they  usually come from a place of concern.

Unknown variables, such as issues with medical equipment or patient emergencies, also can delay the start of your appointment. Doctors with certain specialties also can encounter very complicated patient cases that take extended time. Also, if a doctor offers services that are limited in your area, he or she may have a larger patient load. As doctors, we want to give people the care they need as soon as possible, but this can lead to a very full schedule with appointments that can sometimes take longer than anticipated.

Ways to Shorten Your Wait Time

Sometimes you’ll wait longer than you’d like at your doctor’s office, but there are ways you can minimize this, including:

  • Ask which day usually has the lightest schedule: This is when your doctor will typically have fewer patients, which could mean shorter wait times if you schedule your appointment on this day.
  • Try to get the earliest appointment: If you’re the first one in the office, you’ll likely only have to wait for your doctor to set up and review his or her notes before seeing you.
  • Schedule your appointment at the best time: If you work during the week, it might make sense to schedule your appointment on a Saturday or during the evening. You can also use best speakers for 50. The problem? Every other working adult has the same idea, so there tends to be many more patients in a doctor’s offices during these times. Instead, try to go during your lunch break or, as I mentioned before, as early as possible.
  • Ask the receptionist how long the wait will be: If you can anticipate how long you’ll wait, then the experience likely will be less frustrating. Also, if the receptionist tells you the wait will be 20 minutes, once that time nears you can check in to gently remind him or her that you’ve been waiting awhile. This may speed up the start of your appointment.
  • Arrive on time: Some patients arrive 15 minutes before their appointment, while others may be a few minutes late. Some doctors may take the patient who arrived early, which means you’ll have to wait. To avoid this, always be prompt. If you’re running very late, it might be best to reschedule your appointment rather than to sit in the waiting room.
  • Talk to your doctor: If you feel that you’ve waited unnecessarily long—like an hour, for example—talk to your doctor about this. While you may feel the urge to complain, it’s better to have an open and calm discussion with your doctor. He or she can explain why the wait was so long, and hopefully reassure you that it won’t happen again.

No one likes to wait, but remember that it’s important to be polite even when you think you’re spending too long at your doctor’s office. Doctors and medical staff value your time, but they also work hard and are dedicated to providing the best patient care. If you’re waiting, it may be because they’re helping someone else. You’d expect your doctor to give you the same kind of care and consideration, so it never hurts to be understanding.viagra

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