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Waiting Room Blues: The REAL Reason You Wait So Long At the Doctor's Office

Updated on March 18, 2014
Photographer: Danielle Gaskins,        Model: Danielle Gaskins
Photographer: Danielle Gaskins, Model: Danielle Gaskins | Source

Most people catch a case of waiting room blues as soon as they sign in at a hospital or doctor's office. You know that feeling of impatience, agitation; the wondering why its taking so long and if the staff just decided to go on an early lunch break. Maybe mentally accusing the receptionist of not correctly registering you to see the doctor. Pretending like you're reading the magazine on the table beside you. Thinking of all the places you'd rather be than where your are. During a recent trip to my gynocologist, I tried to keep myself busy in the waiting room by reading a magazine. Then once that was old, I tried browsing the internet on my phone, listening to music on my phone, then, finally, I started daydreaming of topics to write about on Hub Pages. I decided that I wanted to know the real reason that I was waiting so long even though I had an appointment scheduled. So I approached the receptionist, and I politely stated that I was going to write an article about why it takes so long at doctor's offices. She gave me a very guilty look, and hesitantly agreed to answer a couple of questions. I tried to make her feel a little more comfortable by asking simple questions such as, "What is your job title?" and "How many patients do you think you register per day?" Amazingly, she answered both questions without actually giving me an straight answer (apparently she is very good at dodging the press). Then I dropped the real question. "Why do I have to wait so long even though I had an appointment, and I arrived fifteen minutes early?"

What do you think an acceptable wait time is for patients with an appointment?

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I expect another non-answer, but instead she took a breath and said, "It's the sheer volume of patients we have. There are so many. We open at 8:30 am, but people are waiting before that [time]." I was amazed that she actually gave me a straight answer, however, I knew that it still was not the reason that people have to wait so long. Maybe it's the reason that walk-in patients have to wait so long, but not patients with appointments. I thanked her for answering my questions and decided to wait until I see my gynocolgist.

Once I was finally face-to-face with my gynecologist, I explained to her that I wanted to write an article about why patients with appointments have to wait so long and that I would appreciate an honest answer. She was so polite about answering the question, and I was surprised that she gave me an honest answer. According to my gynecologist, the reason that patients with appointments wait so long is because they actually book patients in fifteen minute time slots, but they are required to book up to three patients in that one fifteen minute time slot. The reason for this is because of cancellations. If they book three people at one time, and two of them cancel, the office will still be making money for that particular time slot. However, if they book only one person per time slot, and that person cancels, then no money is being made in that particular time slot (this definitely explains that phrase "time is money"). She said that this system works fine if people cancel or don't show up to their appointments, but if everyone decides to show up, then they get behind schedule, and people end up waiting even though they have appointments. And also, because of this system, walk-in patients end up waiting for quite a while until they just happen to have an opening. She explained to me that they have to work their system this way because the rate of cancellation is so high, that if they only booked one person per time slot, the office would not make enough money to stay open.  This answer makes so much sense to me from the business-side of things, that I wasn't even agitated  anymore about having to wait so long.  I'd heard rumors of receptionists booking people at the same time, but I didn't actually think they did it on purpose.  I thanked my gynecologist for the honest answer, and before I left, I asked her if it was like that at all doctor's offices.  She told me that it was like that at most of them. 


So the real reason of the lengthy wait time at the doctor's office has been revealed.  For some, this may help to lessen the effects of the waiting room blues.  For others, it may not help at all.  But for me, it helped me to view the waiting room blues in a whole new light because I simply respect the "business-related" reason behind the wait.


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    • profile image

      ej 3 years ago

      I understand that but most drs offices have atleast two drs at any given time so the 45 min ive been waiting so far today is crazy!

    • madscientist12 profile image

      Dani Alicia 3 years ago from Paterson, NJ

      Lol, I love this. Thanks for the insight ;-)

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Danielle, you've got this all wrong. I have it on impeccable authority that there's an ongoing party and card game in the doctor's lounge of every office, and the rules of the office specifically state that a physician doesn't have to pull away from the fun until the next patient has been waiting at least a half hour. In fact, in many offices there's a betting pool on which doctor can keep a patient waiting the longest before the patient either walks out or succumbs to their condition. So, now you know the real story.

    • madscientist12 profile image

      Dani Alicia 3 years ago from Paterson, NJ

      I agree that this would help with cancellations. Some places actually do charge cancellation fees but you still have to wait forever.

    • madscientist12 profile image

      Dani Alicia 3 years ago from Paterson, NJ

      Yes, I definitely agree that there may be more going on than was revealed. Maybe some of it is just plain "bad" customer service.

    • profile image

      Brad 3 years ago

      Why not just charge a cancelation fee?

    • profile image

      Joe Henriod 3 years ago

      I think more work needs to be done on this. More is definitely going on. Why do they need to book multiple in case of cancellations when many doctors charge the same for cancelled/missed appointments.

      More importantly I scheduled a 7:30 appointment with a dr recently and was the first patient to check in that day. I waited until almost 9:00 to see the doctor.

    • holyjeans30 profile image

      Amy D. 4 years ago from Mostly in My Own Little World

      I wish I had the nerve to interview people just like that lol. Good job!

    • BrightMeadow profile image

      BrightMeadow 5 years ago from a room of one's own

      Well, at least that answers the question. Nice work getting a straight answer.

    • profile image

      Me 5 years ago

      Makes perfect sense from a business perspective.... Makes absolutely no sense from a "taking care of people" perspective.