January 29, 2013
When is the last time you went to see a doctor? You made the appointment, showed up on time (early, if you’re like me), and sat in the waiting room and waited. And waited. And waited.
My husband went to see his doctor last week, a cardiologist whom he’s been seeing for years. She’s great. However, he waited almost two hours this last visit to see her for a six-minute consultation. Amazing. If you went in there without a heart condition, odds are you’d be leaving with one. It’s frustrating to sit there and wait that long for an appointment you made in good faith and for which you showed up on time.
I myself had an appointment with my doctor on New Year’s Eve (the date was their choice, not mine). I actually received a call from their office early in the day, and the woman on the phone had the nerve to remind me to PLEASE be on time, as the office was closing at noon that day. Are you kidding me? I’ve waited two hours to see that doctor on more than one occasion, no explanations offered and no apologies made.
I get that emergencies happen, and I want to know that if my doctor decides he needs to spend an extra 10 minutes with me to answer questions or address additional concerns I might have, he can do that. But communication is key, also. I know I feel a lot better if someone tells me why I’m waiting two hours rather than acting offended when I ask.
We changed our family doctor about a year ago because the oversized practice we used for years had simply forgotten that patients are people, not cattle. They probably haven’t missed our family of four yet, and they likely won’t, but that’s O.K. We don’t particularly miss them, either.
Many doctors have a policy stating that if a patient is more than 15 minutes late for an appointment, or if an appointment is cancelled fewer than twenty-four hours in advance, the patient will have to reschedule or be billed anyway. I wonder whether we’d receive payment if we billed a doctor’s office for wasting our time? I doubt it, but it might be interesting to try it anyway.
Several friends of mine, physicians themselves, tell me that we will experience a shortage of doctors in the coming years. We will wait longer just to get on the appointment calendar. We will travel farther; we will sit longer. We will pay more for health insurance.
I hope that’s not true. What do you think?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 2012). Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at festivals and book signings, and speaking publicly at various events.