Why Doctors are Late - The Top 3 Reasons

One of the most common frustrations for patients is when their doctor is late for an appointment. This is something that we try to minimize as much as possible, but unfortunately, we don't have a way to entirely eliminate this problem.

Nevertheless, we're believers in being transparent when it comes to issues such as this.  If we can't fully solve the problem, at least we can try to communicate why this is happening, and what we're doing to minimize this problem.

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Reason #3 - Third-party Interruptions

During the course of a typical day, while simultaneously seeing patients for scheduled appointments, doctors receive and are expected to review dozens of messages, reports, and results.

Most are not so urgent that they cannot wait for review at a later point, but occasionally, information is received that requires immediate review and action. An example might be if a laboratory reports a critical result by phone, or if another facility urgently requires information to care for a patient.

This of course isn't optimal for patients left waiting, but the benefit of course is knowing that your family doctor would do the same for you, should the need arise.

Reason #2 - Unexpectedly Complex Appointments

While the large majority of appointments can be completed within the scheduled time-frame, a small minority of appointments are unexpectedly complex.  What might have appeared to be a 10 minute appointment might grow into a 20 or 30 minute appointment.

As with third-party interruptions, this is again a matter of balancing the needs of multiple patients. It's not great when you're the one left waiting, but it's good if you're the one in need.

Reason #1 - Late Patients

This all being said, our analysis is that the number one reason for why our doctors are sometimes late for appointments is because a previous patient was late for their scheduled appointment.

It's of course an option to set a firm policy that "if you're late, you're not seen", but practically speaking, we consider that unreasonable and untenable - life is such that people cannot always be on time.  We instead have to use our discretion, and where possible, our doctors work to squeeze people in even if they arrive late for appointments.

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With the above in mind, what do we do to minimize the likelihood that our doctors are late?

We don't overbook

What this means is that we never schedule more than one appointment for the same time on the assumption that a certain percentage will no-show.

We schedule generously

When setting the lengths of our appointments we err on the side of being conservative. For example, even though most appointments don't require 15 minutes, our typical "regular" visit, designed for a single issue, is set to be 15 minutes long.

We work collaboratively

While some issues need to be handled by a patient's own family doctor, others do not.  Our physicians work as a team to handle urgent matters as a group to minimize the need that a particular physician is thrown off schedule.

We leverage technology

We've built our own tablet-based clinic workflow system to give physicians and staff insight and control into the real-time operations of the clinic.

Using our system, physicians can see at a glance how they're doing relative to their schedule, and make changes to optimize and react to unexpected developments.

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While we're not perfect, suffice it to say, we try our best to respect the time of our patients and will continue to take steps to minimize wait times. Let us know if there are any suggestions!