Reducing doctor’s office wait times

Breast cancer survivor Doris Webb spent an hour in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment she made a year in advance.

“They finally put me in a room, and I told her when she put me in there, I said, ‘I’ll wait ten more minutes because I’ve been here an hour,’ she said. “And in ten minutes, I still hadn’t seen the oncologist, so I went out front and asked for my co-pay back and told them I had waited long enough.”

Webb isn’t alone in her experience.

“We did a recent Angie’s List poll, and 65% of the respondents said they waited an hour or more to see a health care professional,” Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks said. “But what was more alarming in the poll was that 37% of them, when they got into see the doctor, felt rushed and didn’t ask the questions they probably should have, which just means they are probably not getting the care that they really need.”

And those times could get worse. Many health care experts and providers tell Angie’s List they expect wait times to increase. The problem? Not enough doctors to meet the demands of more patients.

“There was no apology, but one of their employees had told me that they were triple-booked that day,” Webb said.

But there are steps you can take to help you and your family stay healthy and on schedule.

“The poll also found that 70% of the respondents didn’t know ahead of time that their doctor was running late, and 55% didn’t receive an apology that they were running late,” Hicks said. “The key here is to check in with the doctor’s office before you show up. Find out if they are running on time so that you can adjust your schedule as well. Ask if there is any additional paperwork that you need to fill out ahead of time, because you can do that from home so you’re not spending your time in the waiting room.”

“You always feel like you’re a number,” Webb said.”I didn’t feel like I was getting good patient care. How could you if they were triple-booked?”

“Preventative care is the key to good health,” Hick said. “You don’t want to skip going to the doctor, but when you are scheduling, plan ahead. If you can, see if you can get into the doctor first thing in the morning, right at the beginning of the day; they can’t be behind. Additionally, right after lunch is a good spot because they have taken a break and likely have caught up. Also, if you are finding it hard to get in to see your doctor, they might have a nurse practitioner that can help with every day routine issues.”

“We are our own advocate, and if we don’t step up and demand treatment and care and that they be responsible, then we can’t expect better,” Webb said.

Angie’s List recommends consumers treat health care just like any other hiring decision. If you’re still having problems after talking to your doctor, find a new one. There are many great health providers available.