Waiting Times and the Misery Index

Last month the Wall Street Journal ran an article, called the Wait-Time-Misery Index, about how frustrated people get waiting for deliveries or service repairs at home. Like when you need the cable company to come out and they say they will be there between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. You have errands to run but your stuck. Companies such as General Electric and Verizon have been working to get the time windows from 4 hours down to 2 hours.

I understand the frustration, but when it comes to timely delivery (no puns about obstetrics here), doctors are held to a much higher standard. Patients often get upset or walkout if I’m an hour late, and sometime even if it’s only 15 minutes. The companies have difficulty delivering in a short time window because there are so many variables that they can’t always predict. They may get tied up in traffic, be delayed by weather, or a 30 minute service call turns in to a 2 hour one. But just like the companies, doctors have similar issues. A patient scheduled for a 15 minute appointment may have an hour’s worth of problems, and rescheduling isn’t an option. Or we may get unscheduled calls when a patient of ours shows up in the emergency room, or maybe a lab test comes back that demands our immediate attention. Just maybe the doctor themselves are slower than usual because they have a cold or were awakened 3 times the night before while on call.

I sympathize with patients frustration when I run late, and get frustrated myself because it means longer hours for me too, but I assure you that if I’m running late, it’s not because I’ve been playing golf.