If you’re like most people, when you schedule a doctor visit, you expect to see your doctor at your exact appointment time. Doctors and their staff work to make sure patient visits run smoothly. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. Your doctor takes care of many patients, and sometimes emergencies come up. Your time is valuable, and your doctor knows this! But there could be an instance when you might have to wait a bit before it’s your turn.


Let’s say “Joe” has a 10 a.m. appointment to see “Dr. Smith” to get a new order for his diabetes testing supplies. Joe gets a ride to the appointment and arrives 20 minutes early. “Jane” also has a scheduled appointment to see Dr. Smith, but hers is for 9:15 a.m. and it’s for an annual checkup. During Jane’s visit, Dr. Smith found out Jane was having severe complications from her medication. Dr. Smith was focused on helping Jane and spent more time with her to diagnose the problems. That meant Joe’s visit didn’t start until 10:20 a.m., and he felt like his appointment started 40 minutes late. The truth is he only waited an extra 20 minutes. The waiting room staff explained to Joe that another patient’s visit unexpectedly took longer than planned, and then he understood.

What should you do in a situation like this?

  • Remember that your doctor is taking care of many patients, so allow a little extra time for your visit, and be flexible on when your visit starts.
  • If it seems like you’re waiting a long time, ask the waiting room staff about the holdup.
  • Tell your doctor about your experience, because your doctor may not realize there is a problem and can’t address it without knowing about it.

Keep this in mind:

Some offices have more than one doctor seeing patients, and each doctor works on a different schedule. That means sometimes a patient who came in after you might get called first because he or she is seeing a different doctor.

Most importantly, be prepared for your visit.

When you’re prepared, it makes your visit go smoothly. And when everyone arrives prepared, it helps every visit go quicker.

  • Arrive on time. If you have more than one health care appointment in the same day, be sure to allow enough time in between for any unexpected delays.
  • Some offices have online check-in or let you fill out paperwork in advance. Choose these options when you can.
  • Bring all your medications with you. It also helps to write them down at home and bring the list to your appointment.
  • Also write down the questions you need to ask your doctor and bring that list, too. Then you won’t have to try and remember what you want to ask.
  • While in the waiting room:
    o Check your medication and questions lists to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, or use the time to add to your lists
    o Use extra time to enjoy a book, magazine or puzzle