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Why you should be on time, even though your doctor is not.

September 26, 2012

Doctors are always running late.  You show up for your 12:00 surgery and wait in the waiting room until 2.  You finally have your very-hard-to-get dermatology appointment at 1 and you don’t get in until 2.  The ER is even worse.  I once went in to the ER because I had slammed by finger in a deck chair, and after 2 hours the only thing that had happened was someone took my temperature.  There are thousands of reasons why doctors are always late but only one really matters: medicine is NOT PREDICTABLE.

Say you have an appointment with a doctor at 1:30PM.  Say it’s your primary care doc.  He has two patients before you, in 15 minute slots (sometimes they’re even shorter).  Unbeknownst to you, the patient before you who came in for a blood pressure check and medication adjustment happens to mention his heart has been fluttering a little fast.  Suddenly he needs an exam, an EKG, maybe a trip to the ER or a referral to cardiology.  Boom, your doctor is late.  It only takes one unexpected event to screw up scheduling for the whole day.

Or say you have surgery scheduled at noon.  You are told to come in at 10:30 (a common time buffer to hopefully prevent unexpected delays in preparation).  You do.  You wait in the waiting room until 12:30.  You are starving.  Unbeknownst to you, your surgeon, who thought she was doing a routine uterus removal, finds masses in the pelvis and abdomen with extensive scarring and ends up doing a much bigger,  longer procedure.  Boom, she is now late.  It only takes one unexpected event to screw up scheduling for the whole day.

Now say YOU are late.  You have surgery at noon, you’re told to come in at 10:30 and you show up at noon.  Your surgeon did not have any unexpected problems with the case before yours.  Boom, now she’s late.  And so is everyone after you.  It only takes one unexpected event to screwup scheduling for the whole day.

Don’t be the unexpected event.  Your doctor doesn’t have control over these events but you do.  Office staff notice when patients are consistently late.  Some doctors will refuse to see you if you are late, even if they are behind too.  This is not to be mean.  It’s to keep everyone on time.  And be patient.  Medicine is NOT PREDICTABLE.  Or get the first appointment of the day.  That’s what I do.


From → Healthcare

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