What is it about time and doctors? There seems to be a built in inability to keep to time when seeing patients. As a patient I always turn up a few minutes early for an appointment to see my doctor but invariably I don’t get seem for at least half an hour beyond the appointed time.
The other side of the coin is the situation from your perspective as the doctor dealing with unknown complaints and queries and truing to fit them into a very short time slot. No wonder you run your clinics late and no wonder both you and the patients are frustrated by the system.
Mistakes made by doctors are:
Having equal size time slots for appointments. People have very different expectations since the complexity of their symptoms varies enormously.
As the doctor, you are alerted when a potentially important symptom is mentioned in passing and you know it can’t be ignored and you will have to ask further about it and arrange further investigations.
You portray some some worry about their symptoms such coughing up blood or pain keeping them awake at night and then you will be bombarded with questions about what might be the cause and ‘Is it serious doctor?’
All of this takes time and the clock continues to tick and the patients in the waiting room become more and more anxious and frustrated because you are keeping them waiting.
So not only the patients but you too become more stressed and fed up with the system of short time slots for one and all. The more stressed you become the greater chance there is that you will become less able to take a clear history or remember what sort of possibilities there are in relation to those symptoms and whether or not further investigations are indicated. What you’d really like is to be able to deal with each patient with enough time to deal with whatever they tell you, then adequately examine them and then calmly decide what further tests are needed.
So what could you do to improve the situation? If you do these things you will be more relaxed and better able to deal with whatever each clinic brings you.
Here are some possible solutions:
- Make sure you have a blank appointment slot every so may appointments for example after every four filled appointments have an empty sot to allow you to catch up.
- Have a prominent clock so that both you and the patient are aware of the time allocation and do your best to keep to it.
- Ask the patient to come back the next day when you have designated longer appointments for more complicated issues.