A common complaint among patients is the time they spend waiting to be seen by their doctor. Oftentimes a patient can wait as long as an hour after their appointment was scheduled to begin. In these cases, patients may become frustrated by the delay and opt to choose another doctor. While there are valid concerns about waiting times, a quality internal medicine physician is well worth the wait.
The differences between a good doctor and one who overly emphasizes the business aspect of his or her practice are important. The purpose of seeing a doctor is to receive the best treatment and advice possible. Many times getting the very best and most thorough care available means a visit that extends past the time anticipated during scheduling. A patient could choose a doctor who emphasizes scheduling efficiency over all else but to do so would be to compromise your ability to receive adequate care.
The reasons behind the aforementioned delays are as numerous as they are significant. Many times a doctor is delayed with a patient because extra time is necessary to ensure that the patient is sufficiently briefed on the condition of their illness or injury. Making sure that a patient is clear as to their diagnosis and prognosis is one way to ensure that the patient will follow the prescribed treatment regimen. By following the physician’s orders, the patient is given the best hope for a successful recovery.
Factors and procedures that contribute to an overextended schedule include a physician taking time to listen to the patient before arriving at a diagnosis. A doctor has to be able to communicate effectively with a patient in order to discern the precise medical situation. After hearing the detailed and specific complaints from a patient, a doctor will need to ask often several questions to pinpoint the exact cause of the patient’s illness or injury. Even after a thorough questioning and listening of the patient the precise cause of the injury or illness may not be determined. In these cases, further tests are required and will likely lead to a longer visit than anticipated.
In some cases, a doctor may require the consultation of a specialist. Consulting a specialist – even within the same office – is yet another part of delivering quality care that may lead to a schedule overlap. Specialists are important because they are able to apply their focused knowledge and experience in ways that general practitioners are unable to match. Knowing this, an Internist may elect to utilize the expertise to be found in a specialist as part of an overall strategy of administering the most complete and effective care possible.
Other reasons for doctor delays include having to take time to review the results of critical examinations. When a doctor administers or orders a test, the key to accuracy is in the analysis of the data returned. The difference between a properly read test result and one that is hastily skimmed or ignored can mean the difference between life and death. Even in less critical situations, reviewing test results thoroughly will allow the doctor the opportunity to make an accurate prognosis and reduce the time that the patient will have to spend under doctor’s care. In this way, thoroughness contributes to efficiency and will work to reduce waiting times overall.
Once a physician has reviewed the complaints of the patient and asked the appropriate questions to narrow down the diagnosis, ordered and analyzed the tests to determine the specific cause of illness, relaying the treatment strategy to the patient becomes paramount. Patients are not all the same. Some patients are more easily explained the contours of their prognosis while others require a more simplified explanation. The differences in the types of patients involved means that a doctor must be adept at finding ways to communicate with patients of varying age, comprehension, and level of apprehension. Some patients (depending on the nature of the injury or illness) may have questions of their own. Oftentimes a patient will have previously understood a factor of their treatment and will choose to question the doctor or voice their concerns over what they have read or been told. All of these variables lead to a longer than expected appointment and can through a doctor’s schedule out of balance.
The other end of the spectrum is a physician who focuses more heavily on the business aspect of their practice than the thoroughness of the care they provide. In these offices, the practitioners may take shortcuts to avoid going over the standard 15, 30, and 45-minute blocks of time that are commonly covered by insurance. This way the doctors can apply only the amount of time for which they are being compensated – regardless of the specific needs of the respective patients – and maintain a schedule that is consistently accurate. The problem with an arrangement such as that is that the key reasoning of the doctor/patient relationship is not given the respect it deserves.
A quality physician puts nothing above the complete and accurate care of her or his patients. As such, it is not uncommon for doctors who value care over all else may run over their scheduled time with each patient. While schedule lapses may cause a minor inconvenience to patients waiting to be seen, what is gained by having a physician willing to do what is necessary to deliver the best care and treatment supersedes any inconvenience.
When choosing a doctor, make sure to keep in mind what the most important factors of the relationship are. It may require more flexibility on your part but the difference in effectiveness is worth it.
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