The other day I took my Aunt for her 6 month follow-up with her surgeon. During previous appointments the wait ranged from ½ hour to 45 minutes. Each time the doctors’ staff blamed the scheduler. Thankfully, this was her final appointment with him.
Her appointment was scheduled for 1:15pm. She was his 3rd afternoon appointment. Now, having worked in the health-care field for over 20 years, I’m fairly tolerant in doctors’ office where patients with more pressing health issues may “jump the line”. I get it, things happen and sometimes you have to wait. However; that was not the case here as his afternoon clinic is strictly for follow-up.
After an hour and 5 minutes they finally brought us to an exam room where the well-meaning nurse again blamed the scheduling team. The nurse spent approximately 5 minutes with us, most of it spent gazing at her computer screen updating incorrect data, which we had also done during the 2 previous appointments as their system seemed to default back to medications my Aunt was taking at the time of her hospital discharge 6 months prior.
As she left the room she stated that the doctor would be with us “shortly”. “Shortly” to me means anywhere from 5-10 minutes (and that’s being generous). After waiting an additional 45 minutes in the exam room, I went out to see exactly how much he would be. After inquiring with the nurse the doctor arrived within a minute.
Upon his opening the door I hit the stopwatch feature on my phone. After waiting over 2 hours, the doctor spent a TOTAL of 3 minutes and 17 seconds with us which included walking with him down the hall to view my Aunt’s most recent X-ray.
I feel that this doctor continually demonstrated a blatant disrespect for his patients by cramming appointment times.
So what can be done (besides blogging my frustrations)?
- Ask about timeline when making the appointment – if you are taking time off of work for the appointment, inquire about average wait times.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease – keep asking when they think you will be seen and they may send you to a room just to get you out of the waiting area.
- Write a letter to the doctor about your experience in their office and cc the hospital they are affiliated with. (keep it cordial, no need to cuss them out, although that might be how your first draft reads)
- Keep the doctor accountable – the scheduler does not have more power than the doctor. They set the time schedule that the intake people work off of.
- Find another doctor – If you can change to one who is more respectable of their patients then I say do it.
A doctor’s time and work is important, however; so is yours. You have a right to voice your concerns and be an advocate for those you love.
When this happened to me I waited until the doctor arrived at the exam room and recounted the time spent in his office. I told him that I understand the difficulty of predicting schedules and that I too have schedules and responsibilities. I reminded him that this was not my first appointment and that for the previous appointments I had also met with delays of 30 to 60 minutes. No rancor or confrontation, just observation to him. After that I never had a delay of over 15 minutes. Everyone else was probably delayed, but not me.
I did not find it necessary to get angry or nasty, just factual and the problem was fixed for me. I don’t know about the rest of his patients.
So speak up, politely, insistently, and factually.
John, thanks for sharing your experience and for the great points. I agree, you can get your point across politely, insistently and factually without getting nasty.