DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Sick of Waiting in Denver" (June 25) will help a number of our patients. Physicians don't want frustrated and angry patients, and we don't plan our day expecting long waits. Your suggestion that when a doctor is running more than 15 minutes late, the next person should be warned is appropriate.
Your other suggestion to call the doctor's office an hour ahead of time to see if he/she is on schedule might not work. The physician might be on schedule, but a problem could arise that throws him/her off. Arriving at the office and finding the doctor horribly backed up after hearing that he was on schedule at the time of the phone call would be upsetting.
Unfortunately, I haven't found an easy solution to this in my 25 years of practice. It does help to focus on good manners and empathy, and to alert patients at the time of check-in if there's a problem, which allows them to return or reschedule. Of course, the physician conveying personally to his patients that their time is as important as his also goes a long way.
— MARC SCHNEIDERMAN, M.D., PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR DR. SCHNEIDERMAN: Amen to that, and thank you for saying so. Read on for some of the comments I received from patients:
DEAR ABBY: I find it interesting that the doctor's rights are prominently posted in the waiting room, e.g., co-pays are due before you see the doctor, if you don't cancel your appointment 24 hours in advance and you fail to show up, you will be billed for the appointment. But nowhere do you see the patients' rights posted.
As a patient I insist on one simple right — that the doctor see me within 15 minutes of the appointed time made by his/her staff. Last year I fired two doctors for keeping me waiting. In both cases I let the doctor know I would no longer be seeing them and why. One had the gall to tell me his patients EXPECTED to wait for him!
As patients, we enable doctors to get away with unprofessional behavior by not insisting on accountability. I am a professional, and time spent in a doctor's office is time taken away from my clients. My time is as valuable to me as the doctors' time is to them.
— LARRY W., SUN CITY, ARIZ.
DEAR ABBY: I suggest that whenever possible, patients should request the first appointment in the morning or after lunch. The chances of being seen on time are greater at those times.
— MAGGIE B., DANA POINT, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: My husband had an appointment with a physician who kept him waiting an hour in the waiting room and nearly another hour in the examination room. When the doctor finally appeared, my husband complained about the long wait.
"I'm a doctor and I can't be rushed," he responded. "If I make a mistake, someone could DIE."
My husband, without missing a beat said, "Really? Well, I'm an architect. If I make a mistake, THOUSANDS could die. I guess I win."
With that, he got dressed and walked out. Needless to say, we never returned to that doctor.
I disagree that it is the patient's job to make sure the doctor isn't running late. His office staff can easily inform people of that fact when they walk in, giving them the option of waiting if they wish (or can).
— NO LONGER WAITING, HARMONY, PA.
DEAR ABBY: I am a professional. My hourly fees are similar to those of doctors. My policy is any waiting time after 30 minutes, I bill the doctor for my time.
— PATRICK IN SAN ANSELMO
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.