Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why do doctors make patients wait for so long ?

One of the commonest complaints patients have about doctors is that they make them wait too long.

It is true that good doctors are extremely busy. They have lots of patients who come from all over country and queue up patiently for hours on end, in order to see them. In fact, as a wag pointed out , this is the reason why patients are called patients - waiting in the doctors waiting room can teach you how to become patient very quickly !

All this waiting makes patients impatient. They get fidgety , irritable, upset and angry. They feel that the doctor does not respect their time, and when it is finally time for them to see the doctor, they feel short changed and cheated because they feel that the Doctor did not devote enough time to addressing their complaints, because he had so many more patients waiting to see him . They feel that this excessive waiting results in their getting poor medical care.

So why do doctors make patients wait for so long ? Most patients feel that the answer is obvious – it’s because doctors are greedy and the reason they overbook is so that they can earn more money.

However, let's look at this from the doctors point of view. Doctors take pride in the fact that they work so hard for such little money - and many will often see patients until the wee hours of the morning. They feel that their personal clinical skills are exceptional and that other doctors simply cannot provide the same high quality of care which they can. They want to help as many patients as possible, which is why they give so many appointments - so that they can share their knowledge and provide high quality medical care to as many patients as possible . While patients get angry at having to wait, for most doctors a long line of patient patients is a major status symbol of success . The fact that patients are willing to wait hours on end in order to see them just reflects that they are on the top of their profession.

Ironically , patients also contribute to this over busyness on the part of doctors. They feel that the fact that there are so many patients waiting to see the doctor just testifies to the fact that this doctor must be very good ! The busier the doctor , the more willing they are to wait in order to see him, setting up a vicious cycle !

Actually I think long wait times just reflect poor time management on the part of the Doctor. While it's true that certain consultations will take much longer than the doctor expects, and that clinical emergencies may cause the doctor’s schedule to get disrupted, when doctors routinely make patients wait for hours on end for no good rhyme or reason, it just means that they do not respect their patients enough.

So what's the poor doctor to do ? Lots of doctors will try to manage their time more efficiently , by asking patients to wait for an appointment , but unfortunately this does not seem to be a happy solution either because patients hate having to wait for 4 to 6 weeks in order to see the doctor. They want instant medical attention now !

The only way to overcome this bottle neck, which is a result of the skewed doctor-patient ratio, is to enhance the doctor’s productivity by using tools and technology so that he can reach out to more patients efficiently , without their having to actually physically come into his clinic in order to see him.

Websites ( with structured medical forms which the patients need to fill out) are a very efficient way of making patients do more of the work, so that the doctor can take care of more patients effectively.

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1 comment:

  1. I've seen both sides of the coin - I've been in hospitals where the wait was short - only about 30 minutes, to very long - about 4 hours. I will go to the speedier doctor because the longer it takes him to get to me = more money out of my pocket. I've found that local health clinics/my personal care doctor are the quickest to get to me.

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