Waiting For The Doctor


Waiting For The Doctor

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A friend on twitter was recently moaning about the time she spent waiting outside doctors rooms as some of the most stressful periods of her life. I agree with that sentiment. Never mind the fact that you are anxious to go in there and find out from your doctor whether you have a life threatening disease or not  the very fact that you are sitting surrounded by other obviously sick people with no hope of a happy ending in sight will give the heebie-jeebies to anyone. Including me. I too like everyone else have spent time waiting outside doctors rooms even though its more out of a sense of delicacy on my part not to announce myself as a colleague and just barge in ignoring others waiting in the line.

Anyway this post is not about the people waiting outside doctors rooms but about why doctors make people wait outside their rooms? A few pointers

  • Ego- Yes the number one reason why you spend hours waiting outside your doctors room is to satisfy your doctors ego- the ego to be wanted, needed and validated as someone worth waiting for. I know this might shock you but its the truth. The reason is, its not easy to get people to wait outside doctors rooms for them to turn up as the competition in medicine is killing and there are umpteen number of doctors out there waiting to see you whenever you want to. To be recognized as a good doctor it takes a minimum of ten years hard work, of hours and hours spent alone in the clinic waiting for that solitary patient to turn up for a consultation, hours spent peeking outside the curtain separating the inner room from the waiting hall every time a mild footstep is heard imagining that at last here comes the patient who will pay for this months rent at least so you can still continue practicing at this same place next month and so on and on. And after all this long struggle when the doctor reaches a place where he becomes recognized- he turns the tables on the very people he waited for and gets a perverse pleasure in making them wait for him. Believe me when i say that there is nothing to equal the joy felt when you walk into a consultation room and see it full of patients waiting for you. It makes you appreciate the sweet success of having arrived. It stokes the ego and gives you a feeling of being invincible and god-like for the only other place people wait so patiently for a glimpse is at the temple. So even though doctors know they can manage their time better and stop wasting others time, still to satisfy their own cravings for popularity they will intentionally make you wait hours to meet them. The bitter truth.
  • The medical representatives- if you see a bunch of medical representatives waiting outside the doctors rooms with you to meet the doctor be assured that your doctor is going to wantonly make you wait outside for hours. The reason is simple- just like politicians need people at their mass meetings to show the media their power and popularity to draw a crowd, similarly doctors need crowds of patients to show medical representatives their drawing power as busy practitioners with loads of people waiting to meet them. Medical representatives are by far the biggest gossips of the medical field- they are the ones who go around spreading stories about which doctor is popular with a dozen people waiting outside and which one is sitting alone in his clinic – despite being a good time manger and being prompt in seeing his patients off rather than making them wait. And guess which doctor gets that all expenses paid trip to egypt to see the pyramids – sponsored by the drug company? Yes, its the same doctor who will make his patients wait for hours showing off his overcrowded waiting hall as a sign of popularity.
  • Other patients- yes this might be a shocker to you but the biggest time waster in any practice is the patient who went in just before you. I have had many patients who have made me want to physically throw them out for wasting my time but have survived because i remembered the Hippocratic oath in time. Some women are the worst offenders in this. They come in with their husbands and children and a whole bunch of people and after consulting for a small problem and paying the fees instead of leaving promptly they stand by the door and then casually start discussing the assorted medical problems of the hubby, the first kid, the second kind, the mother in law, the next door neighbor and everyone else on the street on the mistaken assumption than once having paid a small fee for a single consultation the rest of it should be all free advice on the basis of – well we are just talking, aren’t we, you re not actually seeing the patient, so it doesn’t count- never mind that all this talk consumes the better part of an hour or so just to make sure she doesn’t poison someone with her home remedies. So blame those people who troop into doctors rooms with an army of supporters and sympathizers who have no business being there.
  • The unexpected – yes things like surgeries which can sometimes throw in complications which no one can anticipate- remember every individual is unique with a unique anatomy and blood vessels and nerves can never be found in the same place as shown in textbooks and you can appreciate why surgeons can be late for appointments. And add the occasional friend or relative who drops in to talk only at the busiest time of a doctors  practice and can never be got rid off politely and fast and you can see how the unexpected can impinge on your doctors time.
  • Greed- and now we come to the one reason which can be altered by your doctor if he really wishes to- over selling appointments. If your doctor appreciates that your time is every bit as valuable as his- he will never over book appointments and try to fit in everyone at the same time. It is simply callous time management and can never be tolerated in any other field. To see three patients in one hour is different to seeing three patients in three hours. The difference can be life saving for you and can certainly save you a load of money in hospital bills in future if your doctor can spend enough time concentrating on you and you alone for the fees you pay instead of shunting you out as fast as he can to get the next patient in. Believe me,  no doctor – however  popular he or she is-  is worth your time and money if they act like that because they are going to miss catching your disease at its earliest stages if they are in a hurry and you will be paying the price for it later. Its better to change over to a another doctor who even if he doesn’t have a reputation as the best will at least listen to you patiently. Remember its your health and your life and you are paying the bill for it.

So to conclude i leave you with the thought that all that waiting outside doctors rooms is not accidental but a well thought out strategy by your doctor. Doctors are rarely helpless when it comes to efficient time management – they can stop wating your time or not. And if your doctor chooses not to then its time to stop waiting for him or her and simply move on to someone else who knows the value of others time and respects paying patients enough to give them their attention to. So choose a doctor who is satisfied with seeing three patients a day and buying a maruti suzuki rather than the one who sees thirty patients a day to buy a mercedes benz.  The first one might or might not save you but the second one will definitely kill you. Be wise and move on to a better doctor.

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