By Rod Moser, PA, PhD
Of all of the complaints that patients post about their medical care, waiting time is very high on the list.
A recent poll by Fierce Practice Management shows that medical practices still have a way to go in patient satisfaction when it comes to waiting time. According to the online poll,
- 65% of the respondents reported waiting an hour or more to see their provider
- 37% say that when they have waited a long time, they are often rushed and less likely to ask the provider questions
- 70% weren’t informed that their provider was “running late”
- 55% say they did not receive an apology for the delay
Patients should always be informed if the medical provider is “running late”. Our group has tried many things, from constantly posting wait times on a white board in the waiting room, to a high-tech, moving display that updates the wait time like the stock market prices. Apparently, this last method did not work out well, because I no longer see it in the family practice waiting room. As a matter of fact, the white board is also gone. A simple knock on the exam room door to let the next patient know that there will be a delay is only common courtesy.
There are some medical providers who are constantly late (we have one of those providers in our group), and after a while, some patients learn to accept those delays. A local pediatric urologist (now retired) would make his patients wait up to four hours! The parents, knowing this, would bring food and entertainment for the kids being seen.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that staying on time can be difficult for several reasons, but the most common is that a large percentage of patients often come in with a hidden agenda or extra item that they would like handled during the set visit time. These can range from the “Oh by the way, can you freeze this wart?” to I need a sports physical completed. While I can’t blame the patient for trying to get as much done during a medical visit as possible, each additional item takes time away from the next patient. By the end of the day, a provider could definitely be running late.
And there are a many other possible reasons for delay: The person just before your visit could have had a crisis or a serious medical issue that took longer, or the doctor may have been called to the hospital or had a family emergency, or it could be another unforeseeable issue entirely. A few years ago, while teaching a young mother how to insert a rectal suppository on her two-year old child, I had a major crisis. The child suddenly pooped all over me, and I had to go home, shower, change clothes and come back. About two hours of my patients had to be rescheduled. When I explained my reasons, parents understood completely.