published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Consumer Watch: Timing is everything at doctor's office

By Ellen Phillips

"I'm sick and tired of sitting in a waiting room for my doctor appointment. Then, when I'm finally called back, I have to sit again, often undressed, in a cold room. Any ideas or suggestions?

— Wanda Weary

Dear Ms. Weary: Well, you could do as I did once upon a time. After repeated visits to the doctor and continually sitting for lonnnggg periods of time, one day I decided to take action. I walked up to the reception desk, handed her my business card upon which I had written a bill for $75, the hourly amount I used to be paid, and walked out. The next day I received a call from the office manager who apologized and made another appointment for the following morning. When I arrived, not only did I see a brand new sign that proclaimed, "If you wait for more than 20 minutes, please see the receptionist," it was less time than that I was called back, blood work accomplished, and saw my physician. (You can bet I gave him an earful, too!)

So what can you do if you prefer not to take such over-the-top action? With Medicare costs soaring and the amount of time physicians can spend with a patient dictated by such, it's important to use as many strategies as possible to get your time with Doc Doolittle. For example, try to contact him or her via email or by phone. The average wait time to see the doctor is 23 minutes, so the more time you can avoid, the better. These contacts are best for discussing tests, changing medication or following up on an earlier treatment. Ask if specific times are better than others to call for this type of "appointment."

Request the right day and time of day. The longest delays are Mondays and Fridays. Obviously, the other three days are best with which to work. Ask which of these days are the slowest, and try to book then. If you can make the first morning or after-lunch appointment, your wait time is usually less than at other times. However, as most everyone else knows this tactic, too, ask for the final appointment. Since the office closes at a certain time each day, by late afternoon, most are probably back on schedule by late afternoon.

Request all necessary paperwork be mailed to you so it can be filled out ahead of time. This will save you approximately twenty minutes worth of waiting time. Actually, according to Bottom Line, people who have completed paperwork move to the front of the line. You can be first.

Tax Tip: Switching home appliances with Energy Star products improves your home's insulation, and also saves you tax money. The same holds true with installing qualified roofing products that help reflect the sun's rays. Check out www.energystar.gov.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.

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