Doctors running late is a common problem. It’s the number-one complaint on the Facebook page of our practice.
The other day I read an interesting article about the waiting time at the doctor’s. The author wrote:
What other profession keeps you waiting an hour for a scheduled appointment. Working in newspapers I have lined up hundreds of interviews and never ran that late.
I can understand her frustration but don’t know how to fix it! This is why I am often running late:
- People have difficult, e.g. emotional issues that take more time than expected
- A patient presents with a problem that requires urgent extra treatment like a biopsy, sutures, ECG
- Elderly people may need more time than the appointment time they booked. For example, it does take a while before my 89-year old patient is on the examination couch
- Patients sometimes have a list of important problems they need to discuss
- I am waiting for the Medicare script authority hotline while my patients are waiting for me.
- I am getting flooded with requests for reports, workers compensation forms, centre link documents, certificates, insurance requests, closing the gap documents, travel cost reimbursement documents, DVA websterpack authority requests etc
- Some days can be hectic with phone calls from hospitals, pharmacies, community nurses, faxes with urgent requests for information, reports and scripts. And occasionally I am called away for emergencies.
Getting back to the article. The author also said:
I know they are dealing with health issues which can mean life and death, but surely they could make the appointments a bit of a closer fit with the reality.
Some of my patients always need a double appointment and we’ve agreed that our receptionists give them that extra time when they ring up. But this may also more expensive, so most people would naturally try to fit as much as possible in a single appointment.
If we would give everybody a long appointment, we could only see half of our patients, which would increase the waiting time for an appointment. This would also reduce the practice revenue, which would mean that we can’t employ enough valuable nurses and receptionists, which would further increase the waiting times and decrease the quality of the service we can offer.
Occasionally, when the nature of a health problem allows it, I might say something along these lines: “I’m very sorry Mrs Jones, but we’ve talked for almost 20 minutes now and there are other patients waiting. I know it is important and I would like to ask you to book another appointment so I have enough time to help you.”
Not always easy to say, but sometimes it’s necessary and most people understand. A few get cranky with me, especially if they’ve had to wait for half an hour.