A Dose of Reality – Today’s Doctor Appointment

Please note that this column first appeared in the Syracuse Post Standard
October 11, 2011


In the “old” days, we could phone for a primary care doctor’s appointment in the morning, be seen right away, spend enough time with the doctor, leave with a treatment plan, and usually feel better within a day or two.

But no longer! Today it’s difficult to get an appointment, even within a few days. We sit in waiting rooms far longer than we expect. Then when we finally see the doctor, we often feel like we’re being rushed out the door.

We patients tend to blame our doctors and the way they run their practices. Why should we have to wait so long? Why won’t they spend more time with us?  What’s the big hurry?

The truth is, your doctor doesn’t like today’s limited time system either.  He would love nothing more than to be able to make immediate appointments, see you the moment you arrive in his office, and spend plenty of time with you, too.  But the insurance reimbursement system doesn’t make that possible.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with personnel at North and Northeast Medical Centers.  I was asked to help them help us patients manage this time-constrained reality we are all stuck with to improve patient satisfaction. I suggested some steps they can take to help their patients get the most from their appointments.

But the patient-provider relationship is two sided. We patients need to take our responsibilities in that relationship more seriously, too.

We can do so by preparing ahead of our appointments:

First – Write down anything that is new since your last appointment. New symptoms, new aches or pains, new supplements you’re talking, drugs another doctor has prescribed, or new triggers you’ve discovered that create problems for you. Record them along with the dates they started.

Second – Take a list of every drug and supplement you take, including brand names and dosages.  Note any that will need renewal within the next 90 days.  Or, instead of listing them, throw the containers into a bag and take them with you.

Third – Write down your questions. Prioritize them since you’ll only have time to ask two or three.  If you have more than one medical problem, and therefore extra questions, then make an additional appointment.

Being a prepared patient will make every interface with your doctor more effective and efficient. You’ll be more likely to get what you need – a collaboration that’s beneficial to you and your doctor.


 Effective Patient-Doctor Communications

Why Do I Wait So Long for my Doctor Appointment?

Are You Prepared for Your Doctor Appointment?


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4 thoughts on “A Dose of Reality – Today’s Doctor Appointment”

  1. I would like to see more information on how

    “the insurance reimbursement system doesn’t make that possible.” (a quote from this article)…thank you

  2. Peach, I’m not really sure what you are asking here. But if you are asking why it is doctors can’t spend more time with you, or why you wait too long in the waiting room, you can find those explanations here, then both answers are because primary care doctors’ reimbursement rates are so low, they need to see too many people in one day.

    Here are expanded explanations:

    Why Is My Doctor in Such a Hurry? Why Won’t He Spend Enough Time with Me?

    Why Do I Wait In the Waiting Room for Such a Long Time at a Doctors Appointment?

  3. Maybe the doctor’s reimbursement rates are low but they agreed to it. I pay $1585 a month for an individual health insurance policy. My premiums are certainly not small. If it takes so long to make an initial appointment and the doctors rush you out the door, then why do I have to wait and make another appointment to have my questions answered. This advice is foolish. Add the mix of the doctor will get more reimbusements from the insurance company for not ordering much needed x rays or tests and yes you get frustrated, because what could be taken care of in a week or two ends up lasting months or years. It took my sister 10 years to be diagnosed with a brain tumor. The way the physicians are handling their patients today can have deadly concequences like hers.

  4. I don’t think the answer is to further accommodate and subordinate ourselves for the benefit of draconian insurance policies. Let patients and doctors come together to change the paradigm, not toe the profit line.


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Trisha Torrey
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