Improve your wait time at your doctor's office

Angie's List poll: 65% waited 1 hour or more to be seen


Do you play the waiting game at your doctor's office?  If your answer is yes, it can be quite frustrating.  

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.' 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," said Webb.

A nationwide Angie's List poll found Webb was not alone in her experience.

"We did a recent Angie's List poll and 65 percent of the respondents said they waited an hour or more to see a health care professional, but what was more alarming in the poll was that 37 percent 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," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

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," said Webb.

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

"The poll also found that 70 percent of the respondents didn't know ahead of time that their doctor was running late," said Hicks.  "And 55 percent didn't receive an apology that they were running late. 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. I didn't feel like I was getting good patient care," said Webb. "How could you if they were triple-booked?"

Hicks says preventative care is the key to good health.

"You don't want to skip going to the doctor, but when you are scheduling plan ahead," said Hicks.  "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," said Webb.

Angie's List recommends:

  • When trying to schedule a much-needed appointment with a doctor or specialist, chat up the person who schedules visits and explain why you need to be seen as soon as possible.
  • Ask to be put on the person's cancellation list and follow up with the scheduler weekly if you're looking for a new doctor or want to see a specialist.
  • For normal office visits, ask for the first morning or after lunch appointment. Arrive early, bring your medication and a short list of the questions you want most addressed.
  • If you need more time, ask the scheduler to book two time slots so you don't feel rushed and the next patients aren't kept waiting.
  • If you have to fill out paperwork, ask if you can do it prior to your appointment, either online or by mail-in.
  • When your doctor isn't available for same-day appointments, ask to see another doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
  • Visit an urgent care center or retail clinic for routine sick appointments.
  • Call ahead to make sure your physician is running on time.
  • 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.