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Friday, August 26, 2016

The Waiting Game



The Waiting Game

Did you ever wonder how doctor’s appointments are made? It seems like everyone has the same appointment time but no one's time is honored.  Recently, I had my three-month checkup with my Hematologists. My appointment was made for 9:20 am on a Tuesday. As we were going to Miami, we took a chance and made a second appointment while we were in the area for 11:30 am. We thought this was a safe bet, but unfortunately, our plan was derailed due to a delay in the patient flow clinic schedule.

To ensure we were on time, we left our house at 7:45 am as you never know how the traffic will be going to Miami. Luckily, traffic was light, and we sailed down to Miami arriving at 8:30 am. We registered and went to the 2nd floor where the Oncology/Hematology clinic was located. We were greeted by a familiar face and told that the clinic was closed for renovation, and all patients were being seen across the hall. We took our seats at 8:45 am and I thought we might get seen early, but the waiting room was filled so I started to have my doubts.

As we waited, the nurses were calling people in but as my appointed time came and went, my name was not called.  Time passed, and we waited and waited. At 10:30 the nurse called me. My husband and I started toward the door but stopped us. She said she was just bringing me in to take my vital signs and I would be right out, so my husband could wait till I came out. 

After returning to the waiting room, we continued to wait and were finally called at 11:00 am. The nurse who put us in the room said that the doctor would be in soon. I asked where the Nurse Practitioner was as she usually came in first and did a preliminary interview and got the electronic health record ready for the doctor. The nurse said she is no longer with Dr. L, but he did have a new NP with him which was why things were a little slow. 

The doctor made his way to our room about 20 minutes later. We realized we would be late for our second appointment; so my husband stepped out of the room to call the office and let them know we would be there as soon as possible.  The doctor came in, said hello, examined me and then went to the computer to document his findings.  I could tell he was not up for small talk, so I did not say anything so he could concentrate on what he was doing. Once he finished documenting, he turned to me and asked me how I was and did I have any questions for him. I told him I was doing well. I did have a few questions, and we reviewed them. He answered all my questions, told me he would see me in three months and that I was stable and doing well. I thanked him, and we went to the checkout desk.

As most cancer patients know our check-ups inspire fear, anticipation and a bit of apprehension. As a result, my husband and I are always on edge as we are fearful a problem will pop up. I am thankful that I continue to be blessed with good check-ups, but that little bit of fear is always there.  Waiting adds to fear and anxiety. 

As I sat there, I wondered why people who came after me were going in ahead of me. There seemed to be no rhyme or rhythm to the process. I wondered when I would be called as no one provided an update, the reason for the delay or an estimated time of when I would be taken. I thought how ironic it was that the TV kept playing an infomercial that talked about how the clinic is committed to providing a high level of customer service, but as I sat in the waiting room, I wondered what they meant by high levels of customer service since no one took the time to explain why I was waiting. In my mind, a simple explanation would go a long way in decreasing my anxiety and help me understand the delay.

Most of us know that when we go to a doctor’s office we will have to wait. We bring books, our cell phones and other things to keep us occupied. The frustration mount when the wait times grow longer, and no one tells you why you are waiting or how much longer the wait will be. I actually wrote a blog post on this topic that was called What to do When Waiting. 

Hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and other settings that service patients have to do a better job of keeping their customers updated and informed. Their survival depends on it especially when revenue is based on the outcomes of patient satisfaction surveys.

As a frequent airline passenger, I recall after some horrendous delays where passengers were held on planes for hours instead of letting them deplane, the Department of Transportation put consumer rules into place that limits airline tarmac delays which provided the passenger with protection. Today, if there is a delay on a plane, the pilot comes on the intercom and informs the passengers what is going on and how long they anticipate the delay will be. They do this frequently throughout the delay to keep customers up to date. Although delays are still frustrating, the pilots messages help to keep the passengers up to date on the delays in their flight which decreases passengers anxiety.  

Today, with the focus on improving the patient experience, keeping patients and their caregivers informed and updated regarding delays is something that should be done in every setting.  As a patient, I appreciate information that keeps me updated on delays from the staff who has control over the patient flow. Updates show that the staff values my time and is a show of respect for their customer.  

I hope this post was helpful and provides some food for thought for the providers we depend on for our care. 

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate. If you have a comment or would like to share your experience that has impacted your life, please note in the comment section.

Have a good week!