Being on Time for Doctor appointments.....what Do You Think Should Be Done?

Updated on August 01, 2011
A.N. asks from Plain City, OH
21 answers

Just wondering if I can get another point of view because a recent post got me thinking.....

Say you're a healthcare provider, and you have appointment intervals from 10 min. to 30 min. dependent on what the appt. was made for. What would you do about your patients that show up 15-20 after their scheduled appt. times? What would you say to the patient that does the "While I'm here, I thought I'd also ask you about....." for which time has not been alloted? What would you say to the people that come in on the wrong day (may have even taken off work)? What about the patients that don't show up for appointments, or cancel without 24 hours notice.....should they be charged a fee for the time that had been set aside for them (with the exception of a true emergency of course)?

Think about these things, and let me know what solutions you have......think about how these things affect the patients that are on time for their appointments. I want to hear what kind of rules you would apply and how strict you would be. Time to step into someone else's shoes for a moment, ladies!

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So What Happened?

I guess this really isn't a "What happened?", but thanks for the input. It is always interesting to get different views/opinions.

For me, when I go to the doctor, I am always early or at least on time. Maybe once or twice have I ever been running late and have called BEFORE my appt. time to let them know I was running behind and to see if I could still be seen. I'm ok with getting charged if I miss an appointment......but I avoid that, so it's irrelevant. :)

I feel it is my responsibility to know what I am being seen for. And, if I forgot to tell the scheduler something, I will call back to give them the info. I think schedulers can do only as good as the information they are given. I try to remember that healthcare providers are in the "business" of service for our healthcare needs. I don't see someone scheduling any excess time for appointments when it is for the purpose of "what ifs". I don't think that would be very profitable to be sitting around, not seeing patients continually.

I have waited 1-2 hours before to be seen by a doctor. I know it is my choice to reschedule if I don't want to wait it out. However, I like the doctors that I see and know that I'll get the time that I need when the time comes. I am quite amazed at the number of those that have no problem showing up late for appointments. Get a few of you in a row, and that could be why I'm waiting longer to be seen sometimes. I bet doctors would love to be able to set a timer for appointments, how they show appointments on TV for psychiatrists. I know I wouldn't like to be rushed out the door without finishing my questions.......and, I know that if I have extra questions, so do other people. So, if I'm waiting, I just look at it as my doctor being thorough with the needs of their patients. I've never felt like my doctors don't respect me or my time, especially if they apologize for running late when they come into the room.

Thanks again for putting your two cents in!

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answers from Los Angeles on

When I'm late it's usually child related...not by choice! I think there should be a little flexibility. If a doctor refused to see me because I was a little late and/or tried charging me, I would SO be switching doctors! I would also be understanding if they were running's a two-way street baby :)

If someone flakes, I would give them a warning the first time and charge if there was a second time!

For someone REALLY late with no call, I would make them wait a bit so they don't take it for granted.

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answers from Cleveland on

There are definitely people out there that do not care as long as their needs are met and that doctors are people too with families. I am paranoid about being on time. I call and let them know I am running late and should I reschedule. They will let me know based on what their schedule looks like for the day. There some things we have no control over so I call even on the freeway if see something that could delay me. One of doctors realized how I was about being late one time and told me 15 minutes was their window but I don't want to get lazy and start using that as my window. I want to be thoughtful to the doctor cause I really appreciate their time.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Well, 15-20 minutes late for a 15 minute appointment, I would not be seeing you. I would have my staff ask you to reschedule. Simply put. There is nothing worse than people who are inconsiderate of other peoples time. I don't care who you are, what your kid did this morning that caused your delay, what the traffic was like, or what your meeting at work was about. It's rude!

No shows or cancellations 1 hr before, should be charged a fee!

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answers from Washington DC on

if my patient shows up late - i let them know i will fit them in - they will NOT be next on my list - there were people here on time...they will get seen - but ONLY when the people who have shown up on time are taken care of.

lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...

they are welcome to reschedule and they will be charged a fee for today's no-show - yes, they showed, but seriously - if they weren't in a car accident - what's the excuse? You made appointment so if you just blew it off or thought you had more time - how is that MY fault or the fault of my other patients who got there on time?

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answers from Detroit on

I've always thought that if they get to charge me for missing an appointment, I should be able to charge them for making me wait an hour and a half. I understand that sh!t happens sometimes, but there are so many that constantly overbook and then I feel rushed because they're behind schedule. That said, I don't see realistically how a dr can tell a patient that their time is up and they need to make another appt if they have other issues.

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answers from Reno on

If I were a doctor, I'm not sure I would say "I'm sorry, I don't have time to discuss this; please reschedule." I remember how many questions came to mind AFTER I made the appointment. But, I had a very unique pedi when my boys were babies. She told all her patients that she regularly ran 30-60 minutes late but when it was our turn, we'd have her full and undivided attention for as long as we needed it. We were encouraged to call ahead to see how behind she was running. Because of this, being 15 minutes late was rarely an issue.

And this doc meant what she said. I had 30 minute appointments go as long as 90 as we worked through all issues to everyone's satisfaction...and she NEVER made you feel rushed. On many occasions, she gave us extra special care, whether it was middle of the night phone calls, very late appointments or being seen immediately because *I* was a complete basket case over something. Because she was so great and free with her time, I never, ever minded waiting and I never met a family of hers that did. We all knew that the price for her superlative care was delays. We adapted because she was worth it.

In the end, a medical practice treats human beings. If we're at the doctor it's because we need attention and I doubt anyone would feel they got good attention if their "special circumstance" was not treated with compassion. It's been my personal experience that the more patient I am with tardiness, as a patient, the better service I get when I truly have an emergency. For example, for my annual "woman" exam, I try to be the first patient of the day (9am) and I tend to show up on time or early. I know my doc is also a surgeon who does her surgeries at 7am. Sometimes surgeries run long. I remember one time she was two hours late and I fell asleep on the exam table waiting for her. Now, for all the appointments behind me, they call and reschedule, but I always elect to wait. I've already taken the day off, so no big deal (I'm lucky to be able to do this). Two weeks ago, I had a horrible bladder infection and called, in tears, with the pain. She saw me within two hours of my initial phone call and I had drugs within the next hour. What goes around, comes around. Because I'm not a complainer, I get the extra special care I need, when I need it.

But, that's just me. I understand the "my time is valuable" argument and respect that. But, for me, I try to remember that no one's perfect, emergencies happen and sometimes life just gets in the way or doesn't go our way. As I always tell my children, waiting patiently "in line" (whether it's the doctor, the grocery store or anywhere) is what adults have to do to earn their Christmas presents! <wink> I have faith (and experience has shown) that if I'm patient as a patient, things do work out in the end.

Good question! I hope you find the answers you seek!

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answers from Rochester on

At our clinic, if patients show up more than 15 minutes late, they flat out won't take you. If you show up late, but less than 15, they will make you wait until they are CAUGHT UP with all their other future appointment, so you can wait two hours instead of the five minutes you would have if you'd shown up on time. I agree with this policy. I am always early for appointments, and is it just me, or does anyone else agree that there is NO EXCUSE besides a serious reason why you ought to be late? I mean, if a child starts puking on the way out the door or you're in a car accident, whatever...but really, there isn't a good excuse for not getting out the door on time. Plan ahead.

However, I (and probably most mothers) appreciate being taken care of when I'm there. If I want to ask five questions instead of one, I expect that I ought to be able to (it's my money) and our pediatrician and family care doctor are both wonderful about it.

As a matter of fact, our ped has, on a few occasions, agreed to see both of my children when I only had an appointment for one because the other was sick and really needed to be seen that day. Now, this wasn't a special privilege I asked for, but an offer given by the doctor because she likes to see her own patients. (It's a large clinic, so I especially appreciate this.)

They also have a policy that if you "no show" three times, they won't see you except in the ER. I also agree with this. And by no show, that's no show with no call except later on, to reschedule...I'm sure they're understanding about emergencies. I actually know someone who has to take her three children 40 miles away to another town to the doctor, because she no showed too many times. Ouch.

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answers from Seattle on

I think that they should allot the appointments and extra 10-20 minutes over what they need just so that they have a little extra time if they do go over, or if even after the patients leave they have time to file their paper work and chart or do whatever they need to do before the next patient appointment. So in theory they would be using their own time to get things done, and so then it also doesnt run into the next patients time, making them wait in the waiting room to be called back, thinking what is taking them so long?

It wouldnt happen much anymore because time management is used and everyone is on time.

Also, to the people who dont show up for their appointment or if they are late for their appointment. I think that if you are over 15 minutes late then they should lose their appointment, and it should be given to anyone who is a walk in, or if the next patient is there then they will go in early. It should be stated so that everyone knows this will happen if they are late and didnt call to let the doctor's office know.

They shouldnt have to be waiting on us if we are running late, they are busy too being doctors and all, and dont have time to wait around.

But it is also the same for us. We dont want to be waiting on the doctor to see us because they are running late too. We are busy people as well, and have things to do.

Its all about courtesy, respect and making sure you are on time. Things would go so much smoother if everyone was punctual!

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answers from Washington DC on

The military requires you to be 15 minutes early, so I was always early.
And I have come on-time and not been seen. THe rule is..... and on base you don't break rules, any of them.
My hubby has since retired.
Now if I am 15 minutes late they can bill me $25, civilian doctor.
Or if I don;t show up I will be billed, same civilian Dr.

My hubby's new Dr is a walk in only clinic. THey see you on a first come first serve basis. He was in and out in 35 minutes last Friday.

Dr's should always ask if there is anything else. People should always feel they can bring up another issue with a Dr. Sometimes you don't want ot discuss all your issues with every freaking person who walks into the room.

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answers from Boston on

Our pediatrician will not see you if you are more than 10 minutes late, they bill you for appointments that are no call no show (they take the time to call you 24 hrs before hand) they hardly ever run late because they stick to their schedule. They now carry iPads with them that gives them their full schedule for that day so when he checks in that he is now seeing Joe also knows that in 15 minutes he is scheduled to see Jane. I find the pediatricians are even more punctual in their appt times since they have implemented this newer technology all the charts are electronic now.

Edited: they also give us a copy of office policies at the beginning of every year and us patients have to sign that we agree to them

Kjinhb when you are late for an appointment it's not just the dr that has to wait. If you are 10 minutes late and I am on time I shouldn't have to wait because you can't get out the door on time. Our pediatrician is 45 minutes away and in the 10 years I've been a mom I have yet to be late. I am always at a minimum 10 minutes early because I make sure I give us more than hour to get there for those "just incase" you need to realize that maybe the dr would run on time if their patients did. I'm so happy our pedi enforces their late policy.

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answers from Spokane on

I know some doctors offices that have a policy that if you are more than 15 minutes late or don't give 24hr notice you can be charged for the appointment even if they can't see you because you were late. Unless of course like you said that they got delayed because of an unexpected accident or something or they woke up in the morning and were sick. As far as the wrong day that is their mistake and I would simply say I am sorry but you don't have an appointment today and we can't fit you in until your scheduled appointment. Lastly, about the patient that might ask about other issues if there isn't enough time scheduled you might have to ask them to come back to address those issues and remind them to next time remember to tell the scheduler everything they want to talk to the doctor about so the scheduler can allot the appropriate amount of time for the appointment. These are just my opinions and ideas after having to make use of many medical professionals throughout my life. Hope this help and gives you another perspective.

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answers from Chicago on

I schedule for a dental office. Depending on how late a patient is, we usually get them in. If someone comes in on the wrong day, we are usually not able to get them in on the day they show up. My biggest beef is with people who don't show or cancel less than 24 hours notice. If it becomes a pattern, we send a letter and they are told to find a new dentist. We rarely cancel appointments on our pateints - in four years our dentist has canceled patients a total of three times. Once due to illness and two for his father's death. I've also found that the same patients who miss appointments and are habitually late turn out to be the same patients who don't pay their bills.

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answers from Dallas on

When the doctors start seeing me AT MY APPT TIME I will be worried whether I am on time or not! I am tired that EVERY single time that I go to a doctor, any doctor, they don't get me in for 20-45 minutes. I have been late and I have told them that last time I waited 40 minutes so I figured that time for my arrival. I have also gotten dressed and left the doctors b/c they took too long. My time is worth money also and the doctors should schedule appt intervals accordingly!!!!!!!

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answers from Dover on

I think everyone needs to realize that everyone's time is valuable and be on time and show common courtesy. Doing this would solve a lot of problems in and of itself (common courtesy).

A doctor's schedule should be padded to allow for those extra few minutes (not all will use them and therefore those that do will not make them run excessively late). I think a few minutes late should sometimes should be "that's life". If a patient is extremely late 20 plus minutes, they should be given the option to reschedule or sit and wait to be worked in during the next lull or at the end of the day.

Likewise, a patient who is running late shouldn't just assume that the doctor can see them. They should call and say "I am running late but should be there by xxx. Can I still be seen today?".

It is not reasonable to not ask a doctor about something while you are there just because it was not mentioned when the appointment time was made and it is completely unreasonable to require another appointment be made to discuss, if it requires more testing another appointment may be necessary but you don't know unless you ask. Who can afford extra appointment copays?

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answers from Milwaukee on

Late or patient that comes on wrong day... Which happened to me once, I was told "here is the next available appiontment, you may take that (was the following day) or you can wait around to see if anyone has free time/cancallations." I told them I would like to wait, they then said if I decided to leave to let them know so they could take me off their waiting list. After an hour I ended up getting in, but I am very understanding in the matter that it was my fault for being late so was not in a bad mood at all about having to wait. I was very thankful that a doctor said she had time and expressed that to her when she saw me, it ended up being quick because she asked a few questions took a look at the rash and sure enough had it figured out.

For a patient asking other health related questions... well guess what that is why they are at the doctors, may not be the first reason they are there but I see no issue with that. The patient is also paying for that time so we deserve the respect of making sure our needs are met.

Cancallation... My doc office (all 4 of them) always call the day or two before to remind of the appiontment. Sometimes I have to reschedule but most times I thank them for the reminder. This has saved me and them the missed appiontment, I am very thankfull for this serivce I it is something I look for now when I need to find a doctor/office.

Forgot... I understand that it is wasting time of a professional, but if you want to charge a fee for forgetting an appiontment I would only be ok with it if the policy has been made very clear to me. Also a first strike would be a nice, after that I would totally be understanding if gotten a charge for any time missed after that.



answers from Los Angeles on

Most offices have rules that say appointments may be rescheduled if you are more than 10 or 15 minutes late.

If I was the administrator at the office, I would enforce the rule. If people show up late, it isn't fair to make others wait. I would allow the late patient to stay in the waiting room if they wanted and hope for an opening in the schedule later that day (i.e. if there is a no-show or if an appointment is over much faster than expected).

I would make an exception for someone who is clearly very ill and in need of treatment, but not for a basic checkup on a healthy individual. Also, if they call when they are on their way, I may consider an exception because they are showing responsibility for their appointment time.

As for patients who ask extra questions, I would answer them. I think it's important for a doctor to listen to all of his patient's concerns and make them feel heard. It isn't easy to get in to see a doctor, so I think people should be able to take the time they need to feel secure in their well being. Only exception - I would not allow parents to start asking about other children. Each kid needs his/her own appointment.



answers from Seattle on

Not someone else's shoes... as I've been a unit secretary for surgical admit and a women's clinic (also some acute care units, but the only appts there area staff meetings and consults).


answers from New York on

Since every doctor I 've ever been to see makes me wait in the waiting room then wait in the examing room I've never worried about being on time for them. sometimes I'm on time and sometimes I'm ten minutes late (I call if I'm really late) Let your patients know if you operate differently from other healthcare providers by simply having the receptionist say "Dr will see you at exactly 10, please be here ten minutes early to fill out forms"



answers from Cleveland on

Here is my solution.
First the Doctore can
#1 be realistic about how long a normal exam takes and block the full amount of time out right at the start

#2 Leave a 20 min break every 4th appoinment to be used to make up any time that was lost with the previous appoinments

#3 Scheduler needs to be aware of exactly why patient is coming. They could really be an effective tool for figuring out how much time, if they slowed down and really asked if there were other issues that you need time to discuss, no need to go into those details

** I don't know, do they usually do these things because it doesn't seem like it, or maybe i have crappy drs.

Second for patients that are late
#1 clearly post the procedure
#2 answer the dang phone so if i am calling to tell you a tractor trailer crashed in front of me and i will be late i get a real person, not your office answering machine.
#3 I think it is fair to give one free pass, but clearly explain that it is ONE free pass and if you are 15 mins late, you get the option of rescheduling or waiting for one of those open slots.
#4 the 2nd missed appointment or chronic tardiness of more than 20 mins means they are charged and after 3 they get kicked out.

Ive been to maybe 6 diffrent dentists and iv'e never had problem waiting and waiting for dentists, it's always the drs.

The big reason i brought the original question up was because I didn't know how long i should sit there waiting for the dr to show, and even the nurses didn't know when to expect him. I would think that if he was at the hospital and an emergency came up they could say looks like his appendix is ready to burst, a usual appendeticimy is 45 mins, I may be 1 hr behind, someone call the nurse and reschedule.

one more thing, I still don't understand if a dr takes 15 mins to do an exam typically, if i ask a doorknob quesition, while i do want the dr to think it through, i can't imagine it taking more than 3 mins to answer. by the way i have this rash, or my eyeball is falling out. Its either something the dr knows =quick answer or it will require more test and those should be scheduled.



answers from Dallas on

If a patient is late, I'm not sure. I know we ALWAYS show up ridiculously early, like 20 minutes for our appointments. My daughter has a crazy thing about being weighed so it's nice to give her some time to relax in the waiting room before we head back.

I have never seen our pediatrician in less than 15 minutes AFTER being taken back and doing the prelim stuff with the nurse. I'm okay with this though because he takes the time to deal with anything that comes up. I'd rather wait a little longer knowing that he's really listening to his patients' parents. I'd like to think he feels roughly the same way looking at things from the other side.



answers from Washington DC on

I often get annoyed having to wait constantly for an appointment, only to be rushed through so the doc can catch up. I understand if there is a true emergency, but I have also showed up only to be told the doc was late because she overslept. I think the office staff that schedules appointments should also be held accountable. They should ask better questions about why the patient is coming in so that they can appropriately schedule the correct amount of time. I know that there are minor issues that you figure that you will just ask when you go in, but there are many times that the receptionist has never asked why I am coming in, one even wrote down back pain when I told her I was coming in for chest pain. The doc shouldn't over book and should leave time in their schedule for the inevitable sick visits. The staff should also call patients if the doctor is running late. I try my best to be on time but I have no problem being 15 minutes late for a doctor that always keeps me waiting a half an hour or more. why is his time more valuable than mine? I remember one doc missed a serious diagnosis because he spent half of my allotted 10 minutes telling me about how he stomped grapes that weekend, then told me to come back in 4 weeks for another appointment because we were out of time. I really think that a lot of people have gotten in the habit of arriving late because they expect to be seen late. My Gyn has a sign in, first in, first served. So if I show up 10 minutes before my appt, I will bump the next person down and they will take me first. It took me a while to figure out that they did this, but it helps get people there on time and if you are late, then you wait longer.

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