Why Is My Doctor Always Running Late?

We are thankful to Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group for providing this sponsored post.

You make an appointment with your doctor. You show up on time—maybe even 15 minutes early. Then, you sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes. Or an hour. Or longer. 

A Doctor Explains 

Nothing is more important to me than providing my patients with the best available treatment options and having the best outcomes. That is what they can expect.

I pay attention to the reviews that I receive through patient questionnaires and online to make sure I am delivering on this promise. I am good at what I do and would put my outcomes up against any surgeon in the country. Patients generally are pleased with the care that they receive, whether surgical or non-surgical. My reviews are excellent with one exception: complaints about my running late. Some patients get upset that I am, at times, running 30 minutes to an hour behind. 

I apologize.

Everyone’s time is valuable and it is understandably frustrating to arrive on time for an appointment, then have to wait to see me, or any other doctor. Believe me, I feel extreme pressure when I am late. I never like to have unhappy patients. However, I would like to offer an explanation so patients better understand why this sometimes happens. 

Detective Work

Unlike an appointment with your dentist, accountant or attorney, there is no specific time set for how long many medical appointments will take. Our schedulers make their best guess, but if it takes longer to put the puzzle together, doctors can’t say, “Your 15 minutes are up, I will try to figure it out next time.”

We are here to help solve your problems. We will take whatever time is necessary to do that. Sometimes, it requires a bit of detective work. 

New Patients with Long Histories

As a highly specialized provider, I deal with a wide variety of problems.

Some problems are simple and the process of creating an appropriate treatment plan and setting it in motion is quick.

Other patients that I see have very complex problems. They may already have had several surgeries with other surgeons and continue to have problems. I see a lot of these patients and want to help them. Figuring out exactly what has been done in past and what needs to be done to help them involves a detailed historical review of diagnostic studies, old notes, operative reports and examination. 

Emergencies Must Come First

In orthopedic surgery, we treat chronic conditions such as knee pain or shoulder pain, as well as acute injuries.

My workday typically starts with a call (or several) from referring providers, patients, neighbors or friends about patients who suffered an injury the night before and need an immediate evaluation. Some injuries are severe: a fracture requiring urgent surgery, a shoulder dislocation or a ligament tear. These patients need to be seen now. Therefore, I tell them to come on in. I will work them into my already busy schedule. 

The Unexpected

Yesterday, I gave a patient an injection. They seemed to do fine during and after the injection. On the way out of they building, however, they got extremely light headed and passed out on the elevator. I headed down to check on this patient in the lobby. Before that, I was on schedule. I was actually waiting on the next patients to arrive.

This unexpected incident set me an hour behind schedule for the rest of the day. 

Occasional Overbooking

When a patient calls my office and wants to be seen about a particular problem, they want to be seen in a timely manner.

If you called a doctor’s office and were told that my next appointment was 6 months from today, would you be happy? I wouldn’t. I do my best to get patients into my clinic in a timely manner, even if it means overbooking occasionally. 

A Final Thought from this Doctor

I once again apologize if you have to wait an hour beyond your appointment time to see me.

But here is my promise: When it is your turn, I will give you my full attention and provide you with the best care that is available. 

Warm Regards, 

Chris Jones, MD, Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group