How to Cut Your Wait Time at the Doctor's Office

Feeling like you have to wait forever to see your doctor?

According to a 2009 report by Press Ganey Associates, a health-care consulting firm, the average wait to see the doctor is 22 minutes.

But we all know it can take much longer.

But why?

On "The Early Show," CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton offered her inside knowledge and some tips on how to streamline your wait time.

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Ashton said doctors run late for a variety of reasons.

She explained, "It may be a legitimate medical emergency, if a patient has a problem or start crying in our office, we don't step over them and say sorry, we have to stay on our schedule. Patients can show up late and doctors can show up late, and yes it is true patients are scheduled in an ungodly order, sometimes every 10 minutes, every 15 minutes, so that doctors can meet their overhead because years ago insurance reimbursements went down and doctors had to see more patients to earn the same amount of money. It is clearly a financial aspect to it. It is horrible."

So what can you do to make it easier?

Ashton said, "There is though secret handshake or secret to getting in and out of there quickly other than the fact it is definitely advisable to get the first appointment of the day because you minimize the chance that the doctor or patient could be falling behind or if you can't get the first morning appointment, get the first appointment after lunch. Also, Mondays, Fridays, tend to be busier days so you withdrawn to try if you can for an elective appointment to schedule your appoint men during the middle of the week."

Ashton said filling out paperwork ahead is a big time-saver.

"Certainly now in this technological age there is no reason a doctor's office should not be able to provide you those annoying registration forms -- the big stack of them -- online or in advance, so you don't have to go through that. We all know how frustrating to be handed that clipboard when you show up. It can take a half hour for the office staff to process those papers."

Ashton said she often provides her email to patients to limit office visits.

She said, "We are seeing a lot more of that even so-called 'friending' your doctor on Facebook so-to-speak. Can be helpful for small questions a quick yes or no answer and, yes, my patients communicate with me by text or e-mail. I think it is a huge time-saver, it's not appropriate for complicated or longer discussions like, 'Should I consider a knee replacement?' That really should be done face-to-face."

Ashton also suggests taking notes before your appointment of questions you have. Additionally, she recommends asking the doctor to write down any names or tests or terms, so you don't have to. These terms, she said, are familiar to the doctor, but not to you, so it will save time if he or she does the writing.

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said, "Our colleague … says she knows someone who billed his doctor for his time. 'I'm a lawyer. You wasted an hour of my time, here's my bill.' Do intimidation and tactics like that work?"

Ashton said, "I've definitely heard of that and I think it definitely holds doctors accountable. Again their time is not more valuable than their patients' time. It really needs to be a two-way street."


  • CBSNews

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