What could be more frustrating than calling to make a doctor's appointment when you're sick and being told they can't get you in till next week? You called because you were sick at that moment, not because you were planning to get sick next week. News 4 Investigates talked with doctors, medical industry consultants and medical school leaders to get some "insider" secrets on how to get in sooner, rather than later. In the process we also picked up some other good advice on how to make the most of your appointment, once you get in to see the doctor.
Doctors' Insider Secrets
1) Ask to be on the cancellation list
It's like flying standby. When an opening comes up, they'll call you.
2) Tell the scheduler you want to talk to the doctor's nurse
If you can make a case with the doctor's nurse that your situation is more urgent than the scheduler realizes, the nurse may intercede to get your appointment moved up to a sooner date and time.
3) Ask your doctor if they have "Same Day Open Access"
Many doctors are starting to leave appointment slots open to be able to get patients in that need to be seen on the same day. It's an approach called "Same Day Open Access" and it's a growing trend. Ask your doctor if they have this and if not, you might look for a doctor who does.
4) Call on your doctor for help
It's usually when you call a specialist that you end up having to wait days or weeks to get in. If your primary care physician referred you to a specialist, call your doctor back to inform him or her about the delay and ask your doctor to help, by calling the specialist for you. It's a good bet that the specialists office will want to cooperate with your doctor and get you in sooner.
5) Specify you want to see the doctor
Some offices have nurse practitioners to help handle the load of patients. If you really want to make sure you see the doctor, just be sure to verbalize that when you call. But keep in mind, you might bet a sooner appointment if you're willing to see a nurse practitioner.
6) Bring a list of questions
When you're "on the spot" at the doctor's office, it's easy to forget a few questions that you wanted to ask. Bringing a list of questions, without overdoing it, will make sure you have all your concerns addressed and that you don't get rushed in and out.
7) Ask the nurse
If you remember an important question after the doctor leaves the exam room, just ask the nurse and the nurse can go get an answer to your question before you leave the office.
8) Bring a friend
Sometimes it's helpful for older adults to bring along a friend so that they have a second set of ears to hear what the doctor says and won't forget some important information after leaving the office.
9) Take notes
If you're worried that you'll forget important details about your condition or your treatment, consider bring a pen and paper to take notes while you're talking with your doctor.
Why do doctors have to see so many patients?
When you're sick and feeling terrible, you want to get into the doctor's office as soon as you can and you want the doctor to take plenty of time examining you and talking with you about your condition. But, let's acknowledge that you're doctor is running a business and needs to see a certain amount of patients to bring in enough money to pay the bills. It's the same thing scheduling issue that your hairdresser faces. How many patients does a doctor need to see to break even? That's a hard question to answer because rent, equipment, staffing and insurance costs can vary widely. But here are some numbers to consider. The average primary care physician in the midwest sees 20-30 patients in a day. A family doctors average annual salary is $162,000. So, you do the math. But, before you accuse your family doc of getting rich by hurrying you through the office, consider that gastroenterologists make an average of $308,000 annually, cardiologists make an average of $336,000 and radiologists, $364,000.