How do doctors get behind? Let us count the reasons

Caroline Prochnau
Caroline Prochnau

I am always late. I try to apologize to most of my patients for running late. I even joke and say that “sorry that I am running late” is my middle name. I have not always been habitually tardy.  In fact, I used to take pride in my punctuality.

Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two days of seeing patients are alike. In the perfect world, each patient visit and documentation of that visit would only take the allotted 15 minutes. But as we all know, our world, which includes the field of medicine, is not perfect.

Sometimes a patient may have several chronic complex problems to review with several medications for each problem to refill at an appointment. During other visits, there may be a significant social issue that is taking center stage.

I may have to explain to a patient and their 3 family members why it is no longer safe for them to drive, or use a stove, or even live alone. Another appointment may take longer than expected when I have to review with a patient that a seemingly simple problem was found by an imaging study to actually be due to cancer.

When I run late, I am not trying to be inconsiderate. In fact, my goal is quite the opposite. My desire is to make each of my patients feel respected, listened to and cared for.

Sometimes the reasons for running late are mundane such as those related to administrative work. A form needs to be filled out and it cannot wait. Therefore, I have to stop with direct patient care to complete it before seeing my next patient.

A significant amount of time is required to obtain prior authorizations for medications, imaging studies and for some insurances referrals. There are refills from pharmacies to approve. There are forms of great variety to fill out. Lab work reports, x-ray results, notes from specialists and hospital records require my attention, as well.

I also field numerous calls and/or emails from patients, home health agencies, hospice, insurance companies and others each day.
Most doctors these days use electronic medical records and I fall into this category, as well. My laptop is my constant companion. While computers in general allow for advancements, for this doctor, it adds time to each visit as I type and click and check boxes.
And at times, I am late because I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, etc.

In summary, I am a human being. I might be late to start the day because my son will not get out of the car the first 3 times I drive around the drop-off lane at his school.

The purpose of this article was not to offer excuses for why doctors run late but to hopefully give patients a behind-the-scenes view. Do keep in mind that the majority of health care providers chose medicine because they felt a sense of calling — a calling to take care of their fellow human beings. And remember that when you are in the exam room with your doctor, whether it is after a 10 minute wait or a 1 hour and 10 minute wait, you are the most important person in the world to her at that very moment.

CAROLINE PROCHNAU, MD is with Meridian Internal Mediciane, PA in Asheboro.

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3 thoughts on “How do doctors get behind? Let us count the reasons”

  1. I’m really glad I found Dr. Prochnau. I haven’t had a doctor that I felt like really cared and listened since Dr. Peter G. Johnson moved away from Montgomery County and Dr. Prochnau is very much like Dr. Johnson was. She listens and cares just like he did. Makes you feel like you are her only patient, not like she has to rush you through and get to the next patient. Thank you Dr. Prochnau! You are awesome!!

    1. I do appreciate so much that I never feel rushed when seeing Dr. Prochnau. Once you are in the office you definitely feel as though you and your health are the most important things to her. We can appreciate the human factor and that there are children and a family who are priority as well. But what is an acceptable wait time to a patient? We have lives too, and commitments. For ill patients, sitting in a waiting room for an hour and then in an exam room waiting is miserable. Sometimes well patients in for a follow up do not appreciate sitting next to an obviously ill patient for that length of time if they could be contagious. Personally, 20-30 minutes in a waiting room past my appointment time is what I consider reasonable. Perhaps there is a professional who could be consulted about how to make some small changes in scheduling or workflow that could improve wait times of over 60-90 minutes that would show patients consideration of their time as well. It goes without saying that Dr. Prochnau is a gem, but there might be an opportunity for improving on the wait time.

  2. i hate waiting but I do understand that there are others before me who also needs you and your time. Best solution, make my appointment early (first thing) or just before or after your lunch. This helps most times. You are a good and kind doctor. I appreciate you.

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