Lawyers in Australia wants to sue doctors for running late

“A group of Darling Downs lawyers says doctors could be sued for being late for appointments.

But GPs say patients should be more understanding.

The Downs and South West Law Association’s Darryl Cox says some people are waiting up to an hour for appointments, costing them time and money and doctors need to stop over-booking.

‘If it’s the case that the doctor’s practice is to just book people at random and essentially over-book the people, then it may well be the case that people who are forced to wait because of the over-booking may well have a claim against the doctor,’ he said.”

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  • Anonymous

    When I was a GP in the military — this is what turned my off to future practice of primary care medicine. The appoinment book would for instance say “wart evaluation”. Fine, should be a routine 10 minute appointment. But “wart” would actually mean wart, plus shoulder pain, plus hypertenion, headaches, “not sleeping well”, “can we check my cholesterol” etc… And on the way out the door “oh by the way what do you think about my chest pain when I walk up hill?” Sometimes the retirees would bring in their spouse who didn’t have an appt. to try and squeeze out a freebie spouse appt.

    I always loved the hypertensive, diabetic, asthmatic patient who thought it would be a brilliant idea to stop all their medications a few days prior to the appointment so “You can see what I am really like”

    That is why doctors run late.

  • Anonymous

    Surely a contender for the Darwin Prize. That is just about the worst idea ever. I can see the unintended consequences: imagine having to book a doctor’s appointment like an airline flight, money up front, non-refundable (and forget about your insurance plan–only cash or major credit cards accepted, thank you). Last-minute problem? Be prepared to pay more.

    Yes, it is possible to design an appointment schedule where everyone is seen on time and the doctor never runs late. Problem is, no one would want to pay for it.

  • Anonymous

    Hey CJD,

    Are you listening? Maybe you could enhance your ambulance-chasing income with some “my doctor was late” lawsuits? That is, if you have the time considering the inordinate number of hours you spend here being wrong about everything and making fool out of yourself on a daily basis.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, MY TIME IS WORTH MONEY TOO! When you make me sit on the table- half nude and are an HOUR late, don’t you think I deserve some money off? Think about that!

  • Bruce Small

    I don’t mind waiting for our wonderful doctor, but it would be nice if the front desk would mention the wait time when I check in. Surely they know when the doc is running two hours behind, wouldn’t you think?

  • Anonymous

    “MY TIME IS WORTH MONEY TOO!”

    So put it where your mouth is. If you can’t stand waiting, see a doctor who runs a low-volume practice on a relaxed schedule. Be prepared to pay for the privilege, though. Most practices who see discounted managed care plan-covered patients haven’t got the luxury of that kind of scheduling.

    You simply can’t run a practice on small volumes on the present reimbursement schedules and pay the bills, especially with the higher administrative and back-office costs that third-party payors impose.

    People pay a premium for express services in every other kind of transaction, why should medical care be an exception?

  • Anonymous

    “People pay a premium for express services in every other kind of transaction, why should medical care be an exception”

    Yes. You are totally right. But why can’t doctors have two or three levels of service–you just pay extra to be seen immediately.

    Would the insurance companies forbid that? Probably. Thus, the only answer is to eliminate third-party payers as much as possible. I.e., Health savings accounts with huge deductibles. People who wanted fast service could pay, and those who don’t care would not. Efficiency would be maximized.

  • Anonymous

    I understand that doctors cannot be sure of their time. I realize that it is difficult to predict how much questions someone would have and how much time it would take. It’d be nice, though, if in cases when the physician knows in the morning that he/she is running late, the reception would call people with 3 or 4pm appointments asking them to come later or reschedule. Most of us are taking time off work… Still it is not worth the lawsuit. But I am not getting paid by the hour and can more or less leave work whenever I want and work from home in the evening; I’d imagine for people who are paid by the hour it is different. So there are both sides, but I don’t believe lawsuit is a solution – lawyers cost more than what one looses waiting.

    What gets me mad though is when a woman is kept waiting for pelvic ultrasound (after drinking lots of water one hour prior to the scheduled appointment). I was twice in this situation and it was sheer torture. The second time a nice woman ahead of me let me go ahead of her. If the lab knows they are running late one hour prior to such appointments, couldn’t they warn patients not to drink yet? If it is not possible, why can’t they change the schedule around, to let those who are in this situation first?

  • Anonymous

    You Doc’s aren’t ever going to admit this is a REAL problem, because for you it isn’t. You are so incredibly arrogant, that for some reason only you understand, you believe it is quite normal for your patients to have nothing to do except sit in your office for many hours for a 10 minute Dr. visit. When will you ever realize that we also have jobs and responsibilities. You are not the only people in the world with real jobs. If I make an appointment for my clients and then make then wait for hours on end, I would be out of business.

  • Rich, MD

    To the last poster –

    I agree with you that waiting is a problem. I am pretty good at staying on schedule, I do not arrive late for my session, and I usually stay to within 10 minutes of my schedule. I also ask patients who are not in extremis and show up late to reschedule their appointments, so as to not make everyone else wait due to their tardiness.

    I am not sure where there is arrogance. What is arrogant is scheduling an appointment, and bringing your spouse so that he/she can also get some “quick” medical advice without an appointment and without a fee.

    But I would like your input. I am a busy practitioner, and I like to think that is so because the patients have come to trust my judgement and like my style, etc. But what do you propose that I do, when, in the middle of my day, a patient appears in an exam room who should never have come to the office, but should have called 911 for an ambulance? Or the patient who schedules an appointment for a sore throat and tells you on the way out the door that he’s had chest pain while climbing stairs for the last 3 days? Should I tell these people that I can’t be late for the next patient and have them come back another day?

    The next several patients can’t be called and told to come later, they are already here. In these situations, I am going to be late. There is nothing that I can do. I cannot get someone else to take over some of my responsibility, or ask patients who have waited several weeks for an appointment to reschedule. If I have 20 more patients to see that day, I am going to be late for 20 patients.

    Fortunately, most people understand this. Most accept my apologies readily, and state their understanding that these things happen. Curiously, (and I have not performed any controlled study this is just an observation), those patients with the healthiest history seem to be the ones that complain the loudest about having been kept waiting. Those that have not been in general good health rarely complain or even mention it. The people who answer phones in my office have made the same observation.

    So any ideas you have that allow me to continue my practice and avoid keeping people waiting will be appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    Curiously, (and I have not performed any controlled study this is just an observation), those patients with the healthiest history seem to be the ones that complain the loudest about having been kept waiting.

    I will second that observation.

  • Anonymous

    …you believe it is quite normal for your patients to have nothing to do except sit in your office for many hours for a 10 minute Dr. visit…

    Why do I suspect that you have no problem waiting at home for the cable guy to appear sometime between 1:00pm and 5:00pm?

  • Anonymous

    I saw a patient last night in the ER at 9:30 pm with abdominal pain. When I told her she needed a CT Scan of her belly (which she didn’t really need, but I was ordering to satisfy the CJD’s of the world) she stormed out, saying “I was in the waiting room since 7 pm, no way am I staying any longer”. Good thing, the radiologist probably would have read the negative CT scan as “Can not Rule out” to cover his ass, and she would have gotten admitted for nothing. Nice Healthcare system.

  • Anonymous

    “Good thing, the radiologist probably would have read the negative CT scan as “Can not Rule out” to cover his ass”

    Yes, especially since he knows why you are ordering it (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

  • Anonymous

    Yes, especially since he knows why you are ordering it (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

    I though it hadn’t been proven that defensive medicine exists or costs anything?

  • Anonymous

    “I though it hadn’t been proven that defensive medicine exists or costs anything?”

    Well that is definitely true since both of our board’s top experts, Dr. Elliot and Einstein/CJD have proclaimed as much. Defensive medicine therefore does not exist.

  • Anonymous

    Sheesh. The reason people have to wait, it due to the people who came before them were: Late, scheduled for one problem and brought up another problem at the end of the appointment, brought two kids to one appointment and wanted them both treated, brought a spouse etc. Its not the doctors, its the patients who make schedules run late.

  • Anonymous

    those patients with the healthiest history seem to be the ones that complain the loudest about having been kept waiting.
    Strangely, I’ve been pretty healthy and I don’t complain (except for in the pelvic ultrasound case as I mentioned above. I just bring some interesting book with me. One thought: maybe if the waiting room had better reading selections people would be happier. My pet peave: ObGyn office with baby magazines all over the place and no other reading and nothing else so those of us who are infertile can look and weep. Is it too much to ask for some sensitivity? I don’t say that it is wrong to have some ‘family’ magazines, but give some choice.

  • Anonymous

    The lawers march in where the marketplace should rule.

    Patients need merely vote with their feet. Don’t like the service you get from your physician, then check around, try another one and have your records forwarded.

    If you like your doctor and are reluctant to change then, however much you gripe about the wait, it is evident from your inaction that the wait is worth sticking with the chronically late physician.

    If your waiter is late with your dinner you vote with the tip; would anyone consider suing a waiter and restauraunt for slow service? Sadly, some would answer yes here, but any reasonable person would just scratch that food provider from their list and move on. The same can and should be done in medicine. Don’t like your doc’s service, then just move on.

  • ibear M.D.

    What gets me is people who come to the ER and complain that they have had to wait for 2 hours to get examined; usually for a sore throat or a cough that started 6 weeks ago. They don’t understand that ER is a triage system that takes the most serious conditions first. When I explain this to them I usually get something like “well I’m a patient too”

  • Anonymous

    ERs need to post where all can see “You will not necessarily be seen in the order that you arrived; be prepared to wait”. People who go to ERs with non-emergent problems deserve to wait, sorry to say. They should also be required to pay more.

  • Anonymous

    People are cattle. They don’t get it. I’ve seen a patient undergoing CPR and another patient complaining “I wish somebody would pay that much attention to me”. HIPPA laws prohibit telling them that that particular patient isn’t breathing and so she got moved up in the queue.

    The trend in my town is to guarantee quick attention at the ER or you win a prize. A suburban hospital came up with a 30 minute guarantee, so the urban medical center beat them with a 29 minute promise. Luckily, I work at the one that still has wait times in the 5-6 hour range for people who should be taking this to their PCP.

  • Cary

    Wow…interesting comments.

    My wife is 29-years-old and has been fighting stage IV Unknown Primary cancer for the last three years. Her Oncologist often has her waiting over an hour for her appointment, and the Oncology Infusion Suite where she recevies chemo is often up to a few hours behind schedule.

    A single call to let us know that the doctor is running late would allow my wife to get more real living out of the time she has left, instead of sitting in a depressing waiting room every freakin’ week.

    It may well be that the healthy people are the ones complaining because they are the only ones who still have the energy.

    The idea that one can just walk out and find another doctor is a joke, and IMHO the person who wrote it isn’t living in the real world.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Anonymous

    If you can’t find another oncologist then the one you have must be very busy. Would you then like him to cut off new patients? Sure, a call would be nice but who can predict hour to hour how many no shows there will be or how many people are unexpectantly found to be febrile and neutropenic with posssible superior ven cava syndrome.

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