Tips to make your appointment as fast and efficient as possible

We all hate it when the cable company tells us that the technician will be at our house sometime between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Fantastic! Going to the pediatrician’s office can be the same way.

Your appointment may be at 9 a.m. but you may not get out of the office until noon. Unfortunately, this is the nature of running a medical practice. What should take ten minutes for one reason or another may take 30 minutes. Once the doctor is 20 minutes behind schedule, every patient will likely have to wait an additional 20 minutes for the rest of that day.

Here are some tips to make your appointment as fast and efficient as possible.

  • Ask for the first appointment in the morning or the first appointment after lunch. If there are no patients before your appointment, the doctor is less likely to be running behind.  If you ask for the 4:30 p.m. appointment, understand that there are probably 10-15 patients the doctor has to see before she gets to you.  Each one of these patient encounters provides the opportunity for the physician to get further behind schedule.
  • Ask about paperwork. Inquire if there is any paperwork that may be required at the visit.  Most offices can fax or email these to you before your appointment.  Many offices have a website where forms can be downloaded.  You can then complete the paperwork before your appointment in the quiet of your own home and not in a waiting room full of screaming kids.
  • Schedule yearly check-ups in the Summer. Due to the seasonality of childhood illnesses, most pediatric practices are less busy in the Summer.  Less busy means less waiting time.
  • Write down your questions before the appointment. This allows you to efficiently inquire about your concerns.  This will not only get you through the office quicker, but will probably help the doctor stay on schedule.  Consider it an altruistic gesture for the parents who have appointments after yours.  Very noble, indeed.
  • Pay your co-pay and schedule your follow-up appointment while in the waiting room. You can save time at checkout by doing these things instead of watching Saving Nemo for the 23rd time.

Michael Gonzalez is a pediatrician who blogs at The Anxious Parent.

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