You emailed, you called, you set up the appointment. You showed up on time. You've been there for a bit and now you're wondering, what's going on? How long do you wait before you grab your stuff and leave? Do you just leave? Do you check with the receptionist? Does it matter if it's a doctor or other professional service? Does it matter if you've been there before? And giving them the benefit of the doubt, emergencies do happen. But they should let you know while you're waiting. Right? Communication is key. Would you deal with a late appointment if it meant that in addition to an apology they also offered a discount?

All are different: Hair, business, automotive, medical. And in some cases, if you fail to cancel your appointment in a certain amount of time or YOU'RE the one that's late, you could get charged a fee!

When dealing with a doctor, Everyday Health suggested the following 7 things to do:

  1. Choose the first appointment of the day or the first one after lunch: While emergencies and more complicated cases may come up, you’re more likely to be seen on time if you’re scheduled first.
  2. Call ahead and ask if the doctor is running on time: The office manager for my internist is happy to give her boss some breathing room in this way—and save me a long wait.
  3. Be on time yourself: Patients are scheduled chock-a-block so don’t make things more challenging for everyone by being late.
  4. Understand that emergencies do come up: You’d certainly want the additional time if or when that happened to you. Try to be understanding—but bring your smart phone or something to read -- to otherwise distract you.
  5. Don’t be shy: If the office is running behind, go up (politely) to the office manager and ask for an explanation. If free parking or the elimination of your co-pay will make you happier, ask for it.
  6. Complain again later on: Call or email the office manager or doctor after the fact and explain your circumstances. Be reasonable yet firm. When I did this recently after a 90-minute wait (I was scheduled for the first appointment of the day!) the entire fee was cancelled.
  7. Change doctors: As a consumer, you can always seek health care somewhere else (unless of course your health care plan has you stuck), but remember that sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

Finally, a note to doctors and their office managers: Do your very best to communicate wait times to the folks in your waiting room. Having an apology at hand or even a small gift can make such a difference. We may be patients, but you can’t expect us to be infinitely patient!

So, how late do you wait?

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