Here’s What’s Going on During Those Frustrating
Moments at the Doctor’s Office.
Long waits, endless questions…when did a doctor visit get so complicated? Rest assured, your doctor isn’t playing video games in his office or asking personal questions for fun. There’s a reason behind why things happen the way they happen.
Here are a few common scenarios and why they happen — and what doctors want you to know about them.
I Had a 3 p.m. Doctor’s Appointment. It’s 3:30 p.m. and I’m Still Waiting. What’s Going on Back There?
Even the best-laid plans can get off track. Although doctors plan for 15 to 20 minutes per visit, unexpected situations can derail their schedule.
“A small problem turns out to be a big problem; the doctor might have an emergency, or he might get a call from the hospital,” says Richard Honaker, MD, chief medical adviser for Your Doctors Online, a service that offers online medical consultations. “Doctors’ schedules are unpredictable, and they’re usually overbooked.”
Why don’t they see fewer patients? Medicare and health insurance reimburse doctors based on the number of patients they see and the type of visit. Because both the clinic and the doctor need to make a profit, they keep a tight schedule.
I’m Supposed to Schedule a Follow-Up Appointment in One Week. But the Doctor’s Office Says They Don’t Have an Opening for Three Weeks. What Gives?
Like your primary care doctor, specialists are often overbooked. The U.S. currently faces a physician shortage due to our growing and aging population. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 120,000 physicians by 2030.
If you need to get in sooner than the next available appointment, know that some specialists keep emergency slots. “Although their schedules might be full, they have open slots for same-day or urgent calls,” says Dr. Honaker.
To get moved up the priority list, ask for a supervisor. “Put the problem on the desk of the doctor’s office,” he says. “Make it the supervisor’s priority. If that doesn’t work, ask for the office manager.”
Shouldn’t My Doctor Visit Me When I’m in the Hospital?
When you’re in the hospital, your attending physician is required to check in at least once a day, Dr. Honaker says. If you’ve had a heart attack, for example, expect to see your cardiologist regularly.
Primary care physicians, however, don’t typically make courtesy calls. They’re already overbooked!
Why Does my Doctor Always Ask What Medications I’m Taking?
Your medications influence many aspects of your health. “Knowing medications is as important as blood pressure and weight,” says Dr. Honaker. Your doctor asks every time for your safety.
Your health problem might actually be a medication side effect. Or a specialist might prescribe a new medication that your primary care doctor isn’t aware of. Knowing what medications you’re taking ensures you’re on the right treatment plan. It also helps ensure you don’t experience negative interactions between medications.
If it’s hard to remember all your medications, make a list and keep it in your purse or wallet. If all else fails, take your prescription bottles with you to your doctor’s appointments.
Why Do I have to Tell the Doc if I’m Having Memory Problems?
If you don’t want to talk to your doc about memory, you’re not alone. One recent study showed only one in four people age 45 and older brought up memory concerns with their doctor.
Memory changes can mean many things. It could be a symptom of stress, a thyroid disorder, depression or a medication side effect. If it’s the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, early intervention is key to effectively managing the condition.
Doctors work long hours treating patients and completing paperwork. Although it may seem strange for them to ask the same questions every time, they really do have your best interests at heart.