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.

Author: Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP

I'm an internal medicine physician and have avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when I wrote my first medically oriented computer programs. So yes, that means I'm at least 35-years-old!

3 thoughts on “Waiting Times and the Misery Index”

  1. It is a little different waiting in the comfort of your home for a repairman where you can also continue with your own activities and work and sometimes even telecommute. And if one has to take leave from work to go to the doctor it can be a double whammy. I remember sitting for 4 hours once, and even asked to reschedule but was told he would see me soon. So, when I saw the doctor, I told him that my time was valuable too, and that if I had to wait for more than an hour again, I would bill him for my hours.. He changed my appointments to his first appointment of the day. I never had to wait more than 1/2 hour after that. I can and have waiting patiently for an hour and 1/2 (I consider my travel time for rescheduling) – and it makes it easier if you know why your doctor is running late. If one is not feeling well (we are at the doctor after all) it is sometimes difficult to wait for a long time. However, there is a noticeable difference these days in doctors offices scheduling, and you Dr. Ginsberg are among the best, both in your consideration and your patient care.

    And I always bring my trusty Nook…so I have something that I WANT to read. Makes the time much more enjoyable.

  2. I usually do not wait long to see you, and if so I know you are busy with another patient. When it is my turn, I feel I get your full time and attention. Just like starting these computer sites, you are trying to SERVE your patients. Obviously,your job is not just set hours per week–you work until you are done–and I would guess this is above and beyond your salary.

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