A Quick Tip To Save Time In Doctor Offices

posted by Andrea | 09/20/2019

Thankfully, our family does not spend all that much time waiting in doctor offices. However, after 8 years of regular prenatal, postnatal, and well-child visits, I have learned a few tips and tricks to spend as little time as possible in waiting rooms (especially when I have other children along!) 

NOTE: when James was a newborn, Simon was only 16 months old, and Nora was 3.5, I had at least one well-child checkup every month for 9 months straight — and of course, all 3 kids were with me every time! 

These days, we have roughly 10+ dental exams, 6+ well-child and/or physicals, and a handful of optometry, therapy, and chiropractor appointments each year — nothing too major, but it can all add up to lots and lots of extra waiting!

Waiting is SO aggravating for me — especially when the office says to arrive 20 minutes early (which I do) only to call me back 40 minutes later than my scheduled appointment.

If I’m all by myself and have a good book on my phone, I don’t mind as much; but even then, I just do not like to wait… for anything! 

To remedy the extended waiting periods, I developed the EXTREMELY SIMPLE habit of calling the doctor’s office roughly 45 minutes before my scheduled appointment time to check if the doctor is on schedule or running behind. 

More often than not, the receptionist informs me that the doctors are running 30-60 minutes behind schedule — in which case I ask them if it would be OK for me to arrive 30 minutes later than normal. 

In all my years of doing this, I’ve only had 1 receptionist tell me it was not OK due to the fact that if I arrived late, I would have to wait for anyone who arrived before me to be seen first. 

Nowadays, most of our doctor’s offices have online check-in — so I can check in from home (yes, this still seems odd to me) and just show up 30 minutes later to avoid extra time spent waiting in the office. 

It’s SO simple! 

A Few Other Tips to Reduce Waiting Time: 

  • fill out all paperwork ahead of time at home (or online)
  • schedule yourself for the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch
  • schedule your visit as a “nurse only” or Physician’s Assistant visit
  • check-in online before you leave home
  • schedule follow-up appointments (if necessary) while you wait to be called back (I did this all the time for my prenatal appointments)
  • always have a book on your phone (or activities and snacks for the kids) to “pass the time” if you do end up waiting! 

What are your best tips to avoid excess waiting time in doctor offices? 

NOTE: This tip also works for most other appointments too (hair, nails, etc. etc.)

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17 comments

  1. Amy

    09/23/2019

    It also helps to understand how that particular office schedules appointments. I discovered my kids’ pediatrician schedules three patients for every half hour slot. One slot is reserved for same-day call-in (sick), one for well-child check, and one for routine appointment other than well-child. The nurse lines up the doctor’s route through exam rooms in that half hour by which case is simplest. Which is why Ear Infection usually has us in and out, while those well-child checks with their ten thousand questions usually mean waiting a little longer. It helps me plan what we’ll need while we wait.

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  2. Kelly

    09/21/2019

    1st appointment of the day or first appointment after lunch. Doctors can’t be behind 😉

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    Andrea Reply:

    I tend to agree with you — but just this summer, my Dr. was about 20 minutes late for the FIRST appointment of the day (8:00am) she rushed in with soaking wet hair and was all frazzled. It’s a new doctor for me and I’m not a huge fan — however, she’s the closest proximity to me and I only go once a year — we’ll see what happens next year! LOL

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  3. Tracy Bussard

    09/21/2019

    When my kids were toddlers, we had eye doctor appts for them. I basically had to schedule for whenever they had an opening for two kids, so it was during the latter part of nap time. On the day of the appt, I called and asked if they were running on time, as I was going to have to wake both kids up from their naps to come to the appt. They assured me they were running on schedule. When I got there about 30 minutes later at appt time, we had to wait over two hours just to be seen by the doctor. I commented about what I was told on the phone and they said that was just their policy. So, its great if that works out for you, but unfortunately, it does not always work out, and we never went back to that office again. We found another ophthalmologist who specialized in pediatrics even though it was 2 1/2 hours away from home.

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    Andrea Reply:

    this is HORRIBLE and makes me feel angry for you! I would have been so upset with that office — I’m glad you were able to find a new office.

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  4. Shelley

    09/20/2019

    I work in an orthodontist’s office, and schedule appointments for patients. I would encourage patients to seek out appointments that are not during “prime time”. While it’s not always very convenient for everyone, we often have holes in the schedule in between 10 and 11 am.
    There are times when unexpected issues arise and running behind cannot be avoided, so we do our best to get things back on track as quickly as we can. Please remember that the office staff/doctors like it when the schedule goes according to plan, too!

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks for sharing your perspective too!

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  5. Rachel

    09/20/2019

    Or you get called back quickly and you think SCORE!!! only to wait in the back room for a very long time. Usually wearing a gaping paper towel for covering – Sigh

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes! I’ve had this too — super annoying (especially with kids because you’re cramped in a smaller space!)

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  6. Rhonda

    09/20/2019

    Yes, I usually schedule first appointment of day or right after lunch. In our area, wait time is important so rarely is an appointment more than 15 minutes after the scheduled time (unless an emergency comes up). It’s also a small rural area, so less patient traffic overall.

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    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like you have a great dr. office if they are rarely ever running more than 15 minutes behind!

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  7. Annette Silveira

    09/20/2019

    I don’t know how doctors really schedule appointments, but it feels like they schedule one person per available room for each time slot (six rooms, six 9:00 appointments). I go in expecting to wait. I do try for the first appointment of the day or right after lunch. Has anyone else noticed that’s when the drug reps come in too? My solution is a book. It’s a little less frustrating that way.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — 6 appointments at one time — that’s crazy (but probably accurate!)
    And yes, the book works well — unless I have multiple children with me (which is usually the case!)

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  8. JJ

    09/20/2019

    I never thought to do that. That is a great tip !!! One suggestion I was given from a friend who worked in doctors’ offices is to ask before becoming a patient how many patients they schedule for each time slot. She worked for a high volume OB office at one point, and EACH OB’s time slot was booked for FOUR patients. I was floored. Our regular physician ALWAYS gets us in on time no matter what time of day. He doesn’t book as many for each time slot. You can also ask how long each appointment is scheduled for.

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    Andrea Reply:

    and this is a good question I never thought to ask! Thanks so much!

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  9. Margaret

    09/20/2019

    I always try to schedule the first appointment of the day. The caveat is that it’s REALLY important to be on time yourself, or you can potentially mess up a lot of people, your provider included. Even one factor (in my town it was trains before our spiffy new overpass) can derail tight timing. And don’t forget sitting behind school buses!
    My dental hygenist did forgive me the time I tried to do work-home-dentist in 20 minutes, and got the trifecta of train, school bus, and fire truck, but it took her a while.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh definitely! be ON TIME if you’re the first appointment! That’s usually not a huge issue for me though — I’m “hardwired” to be early!

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