Alan B. Krueger is a professor of Economics at Princeton University and writes a blog for The New York Times on the cost of life - how what we do (or don't) and how we live (or don't) affects our bottom line.
I really liked his recent blog about the long waits at doctor's offices. I'm lucky, my wait time is less than a few minutes to be seen by a medical assistant and then about 10-15 minutes in the waiting room for the actual doctor. But when I lived in a different city, the wait time at my doctor's office was over an hour, and that was out in the general waiting area. I (and a few others I knew) ultimately fired the doctor.
My children's doctor is becoming a different story. It used to be a 10 minute wait. Now it's 25 minutes before our names are called, and my kids are weighed and have their vitals taken. Then it's up to a half an hour before we see the pediatrician. I think our pedi is wonderful and I'd hate to have to 'fire' her too, but sitting around a doctor's office with 3 small children (and at least one of them sick) for an hour is unacceptable. Or it should be.
Back when I had one child and cared much more about what others thought of my mothering skills, I'd hush my child and cradle him and mentally beg him to try to be quiet while we waited. Now I'm pretty happy to wait 20 minutes with all the usual rules in place. After that, I let them make some noise in the tiny patient waiting room. Once we get to the 45 minute mark I let them roam the halls. Not just because it's stifling to have four people in a tiny room with an even tinier basket of kid books to amuse us. But because I want the staff to know that we're getting frisky, and impatient, and that it's not ok to let us marinate for an hour, with sick kids, in a tiny room with blinding fluorescent lights.
So when my kids start to run amok, I look at the staff with that kind of "what can ya do?" shrug and I lie in secret wait for them to say something of a "can you keep it down?" nature. I'm ready to pounce with my arguments stated above.
And the truth is my kids don't scream or yell or upset everyone. I wouldn't let them. But surely a doctor's office that specializes in children would not overbook or run behind so often - and on a daily basis. I understand the business of health care and those pesky HMO's ; I worked in the business of health care. I understand that patient emergencies happen. And, like airlines, I comprehend the need to overbook. What I don't comprehend is the length and regularity of these waiting times. When something 'bad' happens every day, it's time to modify the something.
Professor Kreuger used the tool known as the American Time Used Survey and calculated that Americans aged 15 and up spend 850 million hours every year in waiting rooms.
And according to these numbers, "if we value all people’s time at the average hourly wage of production and nonsupervisory workers ($17.43 in 2007), Americans spent the equivalent of $240 billion on health care in 2007.
Put another way, omitting patients’ time caused national health care expenditures to be undercounted by 11 percent in 2007. "
Reading some of the comments below the Professor's blog, it's clear to see the frustrations patients have with the endless hours spent waiting to see a healthcare professional and the subsequent 4-5 minutes one actually spends with the doctor after all that waiting. Some have even walked out and billed the doctor for THEIR time in the waiting rooms. Many patients have to take unpaid time off to see their doctors.We simply can't afford to sit and wait. Our time - and money - is valuable too.
By the way, I did tell the pediatrician that the wait times had gone from understandable to excessive and she agreed. Now all she has to do is actually do something about it...
Do you wait excessive amounts of time to get health care?
All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.