Between emails and regular mail, I am inundated with medically related information on a daily (even hourly) basis. And while I must admit I don’t have enough time to read each and every article, I do enjoying skimming the titles just to see if anything intrigues me.
And one that caught my eye the other day revolved around patients billing their doctors for being late.
Now I’m sure my colleagues would prefer me not bringing this topic up in fear of me furthering any grassroots movement on behalf of patients, but since this is something I do think about on a daily basis, I’d love to share my thoughts on running late with my patients and their families.
You see, I do believe everyone’s time is valuable. Just because I am a doctor doesn’t give me the right to run an hour behind schedule and not feel bad about it. But does anyone really think doctors enjoy getting behind in their day?
Take, for instance, my specific profession where newborns need appointments at the last minute (for obvious reasons, one just can’t schedule these visit a month in advance), “emergency” walk-ins occur sometimes on a daily basis, or what was scheduled as a routine ill visit (e.g. cold symptoms x 3 days) actually evolves into the “and by the way, my son has had on and off chest pain for the past month”.
And as my goal is to answer and have a plan for each and every question that is asked of me, yes, there are some days where I am running behind. So when I walk into a regularly scheduled physical for a 5-year-old and I’m 40 minutes late, how best for me to handle?
Well, firstly, I apologize. No reference is made to why I ran late (although it would be easy enough to share I had to squeeze 2 newborns in back-to-back) as I’m a firm believer that making excuses is not the way to go. But I do recognize running late stuck in a patient room for ¾ of an hour with a child bouncing of the walls is not always an ideal thing.
Now most patients and their families are comfortable with a sincere apology realizing they also will get my full attention during their child’s visit…answering all questions no matter how long it takes.
For those who remain upset, well, I typically hope by the time they sit down at the end of the day, they realize that running late was not my goal of the day.
I am a patient from time to time as well. And waiting any extended period of time for my visit to begin is annoying to say the least. But the last thing I want my doctor to do is run so fast from room to room in order to maintain his schedule that I feel my questions have not been answered and my care has been compromised.