Waiting Room Economics

Do you ever wonder if the world is spinning slower, or faster?  It’s this world full of doctors that plague me. How often we go so fast to get there to meet their appointments, as they slowly allow the time pass as we wait to get to the back. Not to see the doctor, but just to get to the back waiting room a complete walk through? That would be an accomplishment in itself.

I’ve often sat in those waiting rooms listening as the people discuss their appointment times. Sometimes they wait for thirty minutes to be called to the second waiting room. It could be an hour before they see the doctor. And as I waited in the line to pay for services rendered, I smiled at the discussion of economics. The bills they would surely receive reflected by ineffective insurance company payments. This amount divided by the number of hours spent in the waiting room. All would surely equal the reason patients are there, and are to return: high blood pressure.

It isn’t uncommon to hear the phrase, “If I could bill that doctor for every hour I have to sit and wait on him, he or she would learn to get in there when it is time.” There are also the glares received as the Pharmaceutical Representatives merely pass through the office, to the back, see the physician, and are back out before the first group even makes it to the second waiting room. “They have a job to do too!” But this surely prolongs the wait time of others who also have jobs to do. And would be back to them, rather than sit and wait.    

I was introduced to a cardiologist in Birmingham, Alabama earlier this summer. Hopefully she will not mind me mentioning her name. I was rushing into the facility to the lab. Down the hall, I was led into another room for an Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram, prior to the physician’s assessment. Steadily thinking, my wait time was increasing. Yet, I was led to the exam room of Dr. Melissa Smallfield. I was in the facility for approximately 45 minutes, and waiting in the exam room for approximately 15 minutes, when in walked Dr. Smallfield. She looked as hurried as I did.

As she approached me, she extended her hand and apologized for being so late. Scott was with me on this first visit to meet Dr. Smallfield. He grasped her hand and shook it so hard; I thought he was going to lift her off the ground. He was so happy to see her. I looked down to notice the wait time, and advised her it was no bother at all.  The time we had waited for her was nothing compared to the times we were accustomed to waiting. With my previous cardiologist, I used to think there was a six-hour minimum wait time as a pre-stress test.

We made sure to welcome her to come to Louisiana to teach etiquette to the doctors on time management. A 15-minute wait is welcomed. God bless you Dr. Melissa Smallfield.  You serve your patients well, you do your practice well, and you do it right on time.

Published April 5th, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

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