Long Wait Times at Medical Appointments

29. September 2016 Health 0

How To Maximize Your Time When You Are Waiting On A Doctor


Save time at medical appointments.
Save time at medical appointments.



A few weeks ago, I had a medical appointment in a new office. I literally waited four hours before seeing the doctor. I was so annoyed with myself for not bringing much with me so the time was wasted. Of course, I was even more annoyed that I had to wait so long to see this specialist. If I didn’t truly need to see this doctor, I probably would have left.


In researching this post, I have found that long wait times for medical appointments is extremely common these days and will likely get worse over time. Two reasons are that doctors regularly overbook appointments, assuming there will be cancellations and because of requirements from management (if they are in a large medical group). Additionally, in many parts of the country, there is a shortage of doctors and it will probably get worse in the next several years.


According to a study by Harvard Medical School, a typical visit to a doctor consumes an average of 121 minutes of the patient’s time – 37 minutes in travel, 64 minutes in care of filling out forms. The average time spent with a doctor is 15 minutes.


If you are a person with a chronic condition, or caring for someone with a chronic condition, the amount of time dedicated to medical appointments is mind-blowing. Also, if you live far from your medical provider, travel time is far more than 37 minutes.


In Los Angeles, I have yet to visit a medical office that offers free parking. The rate is usually calculated by the amount of time you are at the facility. So, waiting an hour or two hours for a medical appointment doesn’t only set you back in time, it can be a significant financial hit. On average, I pay between $12 – $20 for parking for my medical appointment. I have at least four medical appointments a month, so those fees add up.



Reducing Wait Times At Medical Appointments


There are a few ways to potentially cut down on your wait times. These tips are actually suggested by medical providers, so hopefully, they’ll work for you.


  1. Book your appointment first thing in the morning, right after the office opens, or immediately after the office opens after lunch.


  1. Request any forms you need to fill out be mailed or emailed to you in advance to cut down on paperwork time at the office. You should also bring all insurance information and a list of medications and concerns.


  1. Call ahead to find out if your doctor is running behind. I admit, this one never occurred to me, but I’m going to start doing it! Why sit in their office if they are running an hour behind when you can be at home or running errands. For example, I had a medical procedure yesterday and was supposed to begin my procedure at 10:45. I didn’t get called back until 11:30. I overheard my doctor telling her resident that she was supposed to be in at 9 a.m. but woke up at 8:45 so she was way late that morning. I wish I had known! I wouldn’t have rushed.


  1. If you have been waiting a long time, it is perfectly acceptable to politely ask the front desk staff how much longer the wait is and let them know about your timing concerns. You should also consider following up in writing, perhaps even bring up the increased parking fee/costs to you (lost work time, etc.).


  1. If this is a regular occurrence with your doctor and he/she isn’t the only specialist covered by your insurance, consider switching doctors.



Maximizing Your Time While Waiting On Your Doctor


Now that we’ve explored how you can hopefully cut down the time, here are things you can do to make the most of that wait time. Face it, there are some mandatory doctors who keep you waiting that you may not be willing to change, or, they are the only game in town so you are out of options.


  1. Practice Self-Care: I usually make sure I have a book or magazine with me and use the time to read. I rarely have the opportunity to dig into a book in the middle of the day, so it feels like a treat. You can take an adult coloring book, knitting or whatever other portable hobby you enjoy.


  1. Be Productive: If you don’t want to use that time for entertainment, you could take the opportunity to plow through some of your to dos. Here are some tasks you can do on the go – pay bills, update your to do list, write thank you cards, write letters to family/friends, review your calendar and list appointments to book, review paperwork or work (I sometimes take my laptop to appointments to get offline work done).


  1. Catch Up On Current Affairs: This could fall under self-care for some, but I don’t particularly enjoy reading the news, so I consider it more a necessity to be informed of what is going on in the world. Read the newspaper, read news on your phone or check out Twitter media accounts to get updates on the headlines.


Hopefully some of these suggestions will help your reduce your wait times, or at least maximize the time you do have to spend there. As someone with a chronic condition and many, many medical appointments, I’m going to try some of the time-savers myself.






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