How to reduce your wait time at the doctor's office

Imagine walking into your doctor’s office at your appointment time and being promptly escorted into the exam room, where your physician is waiting. Now snap out of it. Most Americans accept that waiting is a part of every doctor’s appointment. Recent research indicates that we’re spending slightly less time in the waiting room than in years past, but the lag still reduces patient satisfaction, according to surveys. Doctors know this, but sometimes there isn’t much they can do about it.

When patients arrive for an appointment, they frequently have to wait. Sometimes, they wait a long time.

And if this situation is not addressed, they might leave and never come back.

Here are 7 ways to reduce your wait time at the doctor’s office:

1. Ask about wait times when you’re looking for a new doctor. You can also ask if the clinic double-books or if they have additional medical staff, such as nurse practitioners, to reduce your wait time.

2. Consider using an urgent care center when you’re in a hurry. But remember: Your insurance may not cover quicker providers at the same level as your regular physician.

3. When making an appointment, ask the receptionist at what days and times the clinic is least busy.

4. Find out how long you can expect to wait when you check in. If your wait takes longer, ask the receptionist when you might get in. This will let him or her know that you’re conscious of how the doctor is valuing your time.

5. Come prepared. Print and fill out any new patient paperwork beforehand.

6. While you wait, make a list of your current medications, your symptoms and any questions you want to ask the doctor. This helps ensure your time in the exam room is used efficiently.

7. Virtual Visits. Reduce unnecessary waiting time with remote monitoring or remote consultations with physicians. Virtual visits can save you travel time and the hassle of sitting in a waiting room with other sick people. 

It can be frustrating when you’re on time and your doctor isn’t. Rather than hoping he or she will be prompt next time, plan ahead to minimize the stress (and hopefully the length) of the waiting game, and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about significant delays.

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