TAMPA - After cancer patient Doris Webb waited more than an hour to see her oncologist, she did something many of us have thought about doing, but probably never would.
"They finally put me in a room and I told her when she put me in there, I said ‘I'll wait ten more minutes because I've been here an hour.' And in ten minutes I still hadn't seen the oncologist so I went out front and asked for my co-pay back and told them I had waited long enough."
Unfortunately, those times could get worse. Many health care experts and providers tell Angie's List they expect wait times to increase. The problem? Not enough doctors to meet the demands of more patients. That seems to be what happened in Webb's case. "There was no apology, but one of their employees had told me that they were triple-booked that day," she said.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks said a recent poll found that many patients feel rushed when they do see the doctor. "And didn't ask the questions they probably should have, which just means they are probably not getting the care that they really need."
Hicks notes that there are steps to take to reduce the time you spend waiting on your doctor. "The key here is to check in with the doctor's office before you show up," said Hicks. "Find out if they are running on time so that you can adjust your schedule. Ask if there is any additional paperwork that you need to fill out ahead of time. You can do that from home so you're not spending your time in the waiting room."
Preventive care plays a major role in staying healthy. Don't avoid the doctor because of long wait times. Here are some ways to help you and your family stay healthy - and on schedule.
- When trying to schedule a much-needed appointment with a doctor or specialist, chat up the person who schedules visits and explain why you need to be seen as soon as possible.
- Ask to be put on the person's cancelation list and follow up with the scheduler weekly if you're looking for a new doctor or want to see a specialist.
- For normal office visits, ask for the first morning or after lunch appointment. Arrive early, bring your medication and a short list of the questions you want most addressed.
- If you need more time, ask the scheduler to book two time slots so you don't feel rushed and the next patients aren't kept waiting.
- If you have to fill out paperwork, ask if you can do it prior to your appointment, either online or by mail-in.
- When your doctor isn't available for same-day appointments, ask to see another doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
- Visit an urgent care center or retail clinic for routine sick appointments.
- Call ahead to make sure your physician is running on time.
- Treat health care just like any other hiring decision. If you're still having problems after talking to your doctor, find a new one. There are many great health providers available.