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Physician, Heal Thyself

There was a recent article that appeared on MSN’s homepage that would make an for-profit owner shake his or her head in bewilderment at the quotes for attribution of those interviewed. The URL to the article is, but the following summarizes the gist of what was reported.

Dr. excuses for why they run late

The article explains why patients often have to spend idle time waiting to be seen by the Dr., first in the waiting room, and then often, once escorted into the examination room.  As compassionate and understanding people, we can all understand and accommodate if an emergency should occur that takes the Dr. away from the schedule.  Those instances are not the ones discussed.  These are the excuses offered by the Drs:

Reasons You Are Not Seen on Time
  1. Patient has questions – the article puts the blame on why appointments are not kept on the fact that patients come in with a list of concerns or questions to ask the Dr.  So, rather than allot for that time, the Drs. want to blame the paitents for having the gumption to actually care about their well-being.  Any business person that EVER tried to blame a PAYING customer for wanting to understand a product, service, or offering would be laughed at and shown to be a fool.
  2. Vendors want to talk to them – So, because the Dr. can’t schedule vendors on NON-appointment time or don’t have the ability to tell a vendor it is an inconvenient time, a patient with a check in hand is made to wait?  Really?  And that is acceptable?
  3. Schmoozing with patients – the article points out that at times the Dr. will socialize and share stories of pets, kids off to college anecdotes, or other topics and that will “bleed over” into other appointments.  I am all for sharing elements of ourselves with others in the course of the work day.  But, do it within the confines of the time allotted or make other time for it.  The waiting CUSTOMER should not be disadvantaged.
  4. Administrative commitments – the next excuse is that meetings, paperwork, or other administrative tasks take time or go past the time allotted.  Because the Dr. can’t figure out how to project or forecast time is no excuse to keep a patient waiting.  Would we accept that excuse from ANY other business?  Sorry, your furniture can’t be delivered as promised, the delivery company has too much paperwork.  Pardon us, your dinner won ‘t be ready on time, the supplier has documentation requirements we have to meet.  Please. 
  5. They can’t manage time – One Dr. smirked that the medical professions don’t manage time and that they have the ability to be arrogant about it without real consequences.  He was honest about it, quite correct, and it should make every patient that has ever waited for a Dr. seethe to read it is viewed so flippantly.
  6. Family emergency – the explanation of “we are people too” and have things happen in our lives that keep us from keeping commitments.  OK, we get it.  Sure, that happens upon occasion.  BUT, even in those situations…let someone know and give THEM the option if they want to stay or reschedule.  In what other business can you get away with not calling in to tell your boss that you are going to be late (and the patient is technically your boss!)?
  7. Giving bad news – One physician claimed that having to deliver bad news takes more time than expected or than other appointments take.  Yea, that may be true.  So, leave yourself time in your day for that – don’t schedule back-to-back-to-back appointments so that if ONE runs long, the others are not adversely impacted.  Oh, and if none of them take more time than expected, you now have the time you needed for the paperwork and vendors that obstruct the scheduling.
  8. Bio Break – One Dr. wanted consideration for the time it takes to go tend to nature’s call.  Well, if that is the reason why the appointments are running late, it is clear that the Dr. has not taken care of that urge – because that is clearly a full of crap reason to use as an explanation for why a business habitually runs late.

If the schedule should get out of kilter, let the subsequent patients know BEFORE they have been forced to endure long waits.  No business should be run with that being an acceptable practice.  Most patients understand it is possible at times that things get a little off-track.  However, adjust the double-booking and amount of time devoted to each appointment or don’t be surprised when patients decide that it just is not worth it!


David Zahn