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These days, there are waits to even get to your wait. This needs to stop.

Ellen Seidman
September 18, 2014

Yesterday morning, I waited an hour and a half to see an orthopedist. Sitting around was almost as painful as my frozen shoulder. I'd done the right thing by booking an appointment early in the day, one recommended way to beat a long wait. The doctor said she was sorry when she finally saw me, but it didn't make up for my wasted time. I felt relatively better, though, when I griped about it and found out that a friend once waited three hours to see a doctor—and the doc refused to apologize.

I know I'm not alone here, as evidenced by the other patients keeping me company in the waiting room, along with numerous polls. One survey found that 90% of patients have been aggravated by doctors' office delays (I assume that the 10% who weren't aggravated were dead and waiting for an autopsy), and that the average wait time is 20 minutes.

Those of us with kids have a double whammy. Earlier this year I waited with my daughter for an hour to receive her annual check-up; a nurse escorted us to an exam room only after I had an "I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" hissy fit in the waiting room. These days, there are waits to even get to your wait: There's evidence that it takes longer than ever to even snag a doctor appointment, according to the New York Times.

I should have called before I went to the doc, as this Health story recommends, especially because I know she tends to have delays. But I think doctors need to take responsibility, too—surely there's a way to streamline the appointment system. How about a text alert to let patients know when a doctor is running late?

Even ERs, notorious for their waits, have come up with innovative approaches; now patients can book appointments online. Over at SSM Health Care in St. Louis, patients with minor emergencies can hold their place online and wait at home or anywhere until it's go time. Of course, not everyone has Internet access, but that would be great to have as an option. Because yesterday, my only choice was to sit around waiting for an hour and a half.

One word: Argh.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Beat the Waiting-Room Blues

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