Why are doctors always running late???

  • Patients with urgent problems/emergencies have to be fit in.
  • What appears to be a simple problem escalates.
  • Patients have long-winded or multiple problems they want addressed
  • If your doctor sees patients at the hospital or a nursing home as well, they will probably have to make rounds before coming to the office – which also can be an unpredictable business.
  • There may be bad weather or traffic on your doctor’s drive in to the office.
  • Having to wrangle with insurance companies over why a patient should have Xiidra for her dry eyes;
  • Calls/texts/emails from patients about side effects of their medicines, their lack of progress, their eye pressure readings, their reaction to VEGF injections , or possibly their Secretary of State Drivers’ Form needs filling out ASAP…

In this day and age, this is all compounded by the “advance” of having computerized medical records – and having to record stuff like “meaningful use” where doctors are mandated to take note of all sorts of demographics.  And, of course, if those drug reps come by with coffee and donuts, they need a few minutes of your doctor’s time to bend their ear about their company’s newest medication.

“Why can’t doctors just allow enough extra time in their schedule to accommodate all these eventualities?” you might ask. There is nothing that burns a doctor more than sitting around twiddling his or her thumbs when he or she could be seeing patients. If you happen to have a light day with no drug reps, no emergencies, no calls, and only straightforward patients, it can happen. So doctors book their schedules based on light days like this, and when reality hits – they run late.

What Can You, as the Patient, Do About It?

Your doctor is much more likely to be on time for the first appointment or two in the session – so ask for an early morning or afternoon appointment. Inform the front office staff, or better still the doctor’s nurse if possible, if you have a tight time schedule. Making a prioritized list is likely to make the best use of the time you do have with the doctor. It may sound unfair, but you being punctual is important. Murphy’s Law being what it is, the day you are late is the one day your doctor will be running on time – but even if this is not the case you can at least take the moral high ground when complaining about the doctor being late.

And one thing that placates patients of doctors who run late is if the front office staff informs them and can give some idea of how late. Some people advocate calling ahead to see. But at least ask when you get there. As noted, the doctor running late seems to be a universal phenomenon.