Hurry up and wait: In Alabama, going to the doctor can be a time-consuming experience
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 10, 2012 | 1571 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Among the many measures people use to determine the quality of health care they receive, the length of time they have to wait to receive that care ranks high on the list.

No one likes to wait in a physician’s office, especially when feeling bad and wanting relief. That is one reason why drop-in, strip-mall medical clinics that can feature online appointments (docs-in-a-box they are often called) are increasingly popular.

The wait time to see a doctor varies from state to state, region to region, even city to city, but there is little doubt that how long a patient has to wait only adds to the general anxiety the patient may feel simply by being there.

Recently, the website vitals.com, which helps patients link up with physicians in their area, did an analysis of wait times from its database of more than 700,000 doctors nationwide to find out the trends.

(Note: these times were “patient-reported,” which might skew the data a bit, since reports could come from the very happy or the very angry and not reflect patients who were generally satisfied.)

At the top of the list was Wisconsin, where patients have to wait an average of 15 minutes, 26 seconds to see a physician, followed by New Hampshire, where patients had to wait 14 seconds longer.

Coming in next-to-last was Alabama, where the sick and injured have to sit in the lobby an average of 24 minutes, 32 seconds.

Could it be that this state has fewer doctors — who, understandably, try to see as many patients as possible? Doing that can lead to back-ups and delays.

Or maybe it is because patients in Alabama arrive at the doctor’s office with more-complex ailments that make it difficult to schedule care with any precision.

Or maybe Alabama doctors are more personally involved with their patients and refuse to treat office visits like an assembly line, so they take more time with them, which causes delays.

Or maybe (as cynics suggest) Alabama physicians overbook because they have a captive clientele and seeing patients is where the money is.

Whatever the reason, waiting is difficult on the patient.

This page hopes Alabama physicians take note, do a bit of analysis on their own and see if the wait times for basic office visits can be reduced. Customer service is part of any business, especially when those customers have options from which to choose.

Meanwhile, patients should take heart. Alabama is not at the bottom of the list. Once again, “thank God for Mississippi.” There, the average wait is 32 seconds longer than it is here.
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