Over to you: Waiting for your doctor – fact of life or time for a change?

2013-02-14 waiting for your doctor

Last week, in the Globe and Mail’s popular “Ask a Health Expert” column, a punctual patient posed the following question: Why are doctors always running late? I’m frustrated when I’m made to wait upward of 45 minutes for them. Is there a good reason why this happens so often?

The response came from Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe, medical director at the Immigrant Womens’ Health Centre in Toronto:

“No doctor likes running behind, and most try to keep on time out of respect for patients’ schedules and busy lives. But even with the best of intentions, we end up running behind due to unpredictable circumstances. While it’s not meant to be an excuse, understanding the common reasons for why your doctor runs late may help to deal with the stress of waiting.”

She uses the example of one of her recent work days at the clinic, to illustrate some reasons why doctors’ schedules can go off  the rails:

  • Call from a specialist about a patient admitted to hospital
  • 2 urgent walk-ins
  • late patient
  • no-show patient
  • 5 more urgent walk-ins
  • patient with depression required longer appointment

Dr. Wijayasinghe says most practices have mechanisms in place to deal with these “unforeseen circumstances.” She ends by suggesting that if you don’t want to sit around the waiting room leafing through year-old Car and Driver magazines, nab that first appointment in the morning, or the first one right after lunch.

Plenty of Globe readers weighed in with their thoughts on the doctor’s explanation and advice.

Now it’s over to you. What do you think?

Patients – Are you resigned to sitting in the waiting room? Or wondering why, if other service industries have figured out how to stay on schedule, doctors can’t do the same? Is it ever okay to wait?

Doctors – Are there other reasons why appointments fall behind schedule? Is your clinic taking steps to shorten or even eliminate waits?

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