Why is my doctor always late?!

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While you’d expect a place called ‘the waiting room’ to be fairly self-explanatory, a lot of us are still surprised by how often we’re stuck waiting for our doctor or dentist 10, 20, or even 30 minutes after our scheduled appointment time. So why does it happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

 
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Other Patients are Late

Even one patient showing up 10 to 15 minutes late for their appointment can throw everything off schedule and push all subsequent appointment back anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.

 
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Previous Appointments Run Over Time

You might be scheduled for a simple oral cleaning, but the patient ahead of you could have come in for something far more complex. It can be hard for the receptionist to predict just how long each appointment is actually going to take ahead of time (especially if a new medical problem is discovered and diagnosed during the appointment) which means they might book you for an appointment time that’s earlier than your dentist will actually be prepared to see you.

 
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Unforeseen Complications with other Patients

Your dentist may have a bunch of cleanings scheduled back to back but if the hygienist doing the cleaning spots something troublesome during the oral exam, it will likely cause the appointment to run longer than initially anticipated.

 
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A Member of the Staff Could have Called in Sick

Being short staffed is a problem in every field but especially so in medical professions. A dental hygienist calling in sick can throw off the flow of the entire practice and can inadvertently increase wait times for the patients.


So what can you do to deal with longer than expected waiting times?

 
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Modify and Manage your Expectations

Rather than going into your appointment expecting to be seen at 3pm on the dot, realize there’s every chance that you’ll be waiting at least another 15 minutes before you’re called in and plan accordingly. If you’re taking time off work or hiring someone to babysit your child/children, make sure you book enough time to cover any extra waiting you may have to do.

 
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Bring a Book

Yes, most dental and doctor’s offices have a selection of magazines but are they really enough to keep you occupied while you wait? Bring a good book or newspaper with you to your next appointment so your waiting time feels less like wasted time. Playing a game on your phone is another good option (so long as the sound is turned off so you don’t annoy the other patients waiting alongside you).

 
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Book early

The earlier in the day you book your appointment, the lower the chances are of there being a wait time. If you can manage it, try to get the first appointment of the day.