Managing the Wait


One very rainy day, I went to the grocery. I had to stock up because Mr. Weatherman said its going to be a wet and stormy week and my pantry is empty. As soon as I stepped into the grocery, I realized I was not the only one thinking that way. So with EVERYBODY else!! It looked like panic buying! The next hurdle was getting to the counters to pay! The lines were long and slow ūüôĀ

Waiting is not fun. I admire establishments who are able to manage waiting lines. I have a few good experience waiting.

I stayed in a hotel for a convention. During such time, rooms are filled up with delegates. Breakfast time will find you lining up to get in. Long, long line. My stomach is already grumbling. Out came the manager carrying mini sandwiches and offering drinks to those in line! I couldn’t help but smile.

I accompanied my aunt for an eye check up in a busy eye center. This center is known for its good doctors and good service. I was expecting a long wait. I went directly to the receptionist who got her name and gave me a form I helped my aunt to fill up. I gave the form back and we sat in a waiting area. After a few minutes, another person approached us and asked my aunt a few questions then he excused himself and told us to wait and he will get back to my aunt. He came back and led us to another area where my aunt’s eye was briefly examined using a machine. Then back to a sitting area where we waited. Not too many minutes after, we were asked to move to another area and enter a consultation room. We waited for a while again. My aunt was seen by an eye doctor who discussed her condition and medications. Another person came to lead us to the next area where we were asked if we want the prescriptions filled or we would like to proceed to payment. We paid and off we went. I am sure there was a line. But we moved from one station to another with a manageable wait in between stations. There was always someone attending to us. There was something being done to my aunt in between waits. It felt like we were progressing. The waiting became manageable.

Paying bills can also involve long waits. Stores have made use of numbers for queiung. You get the number. Find out what number is currently being served either by asking or through the dashboard displayed. You still wait but knowing your order in the line eases the waiting because your mind has been prepared to accept it. You can choose to do other things or come back at an approximate time. For those who chooses to wait, a television plays a video or show to keep you entertained.

Fast food needs to be fast! With several persons ahead of me before i get to the counter to order, the store manager starts to take orders from people in the line and calls the order in advance to the kitchen staff. I still have to wait but knowing its getting prepared and all I had to do in the counter is pay made waiting okay.

We can learn from these experiences to manage waiting time of patients in our clinic.

1. Make waiting bearable. Offer something to ease the wait. Something to eat or drink. Something children can do like coloring books or book to browse for children and parents or toys children can play with.

2. Give patients a sense that their visit is progressing. For pediatricians, it can start with getting measurements.If you have a nurse or an associate, have them conduct preliminary interview before they enter the consultation room. If there is fever, paracetamol can be given. If the presenting problem is known, for example diarrhea or fever, materials to read can be given for parents to read. Just like my eye center experience, the wait seem shorter.

3. If patients need to wait because you will not make it to the clinic on time, inform them of the approximate time of arrival. Under promise, over deliver.

There will be ocassions when waiting is inevitable. Managing it makes it acceptable. How is your patient waiting?

photo credit: Vlado/

7 Steps to a Successful Patient Appointment System

calendar for appointment

Doctors are always in a rush.

Patients are in the clinic. Patients are in the hospital  waiting for our daily rounds. We hop from one clinic to another, one hospital to another. We have conferences to attend. We have procedures to do.


Patients are in a rush too.

They want to be seen as soon as they arrive. Their concerns are always urgent . They have to get back to work or attend to something else.


Marrying the doctor’s time and the patient’s time can be very difficult.  I have chosen to address this by seeing patients by appointment since I started practicing. Its not easy but it slowly  worked for me and my patients. I started by convincing myself and my patients that it will work both ways for us.


Sticking to appointed time is not  100% guaranteed. When a patient in the hospital becomes toxic or when a procedure becomes prolonged, adjustments will have to be made.


Patients run late  because of traffic and unexpected circumstances. Both my patients and I try our very best. You also need a very efficient secretary for this to work!

Here’s a few tips:


  1. Convince yourself  that this will help you know when you will be done and what else you can do with your time.
  2. Convince your patient that they will be seen as soon as they arrive and that they can make good use of their time the rest of the day.
  3. Make reminder calls  a day or two before to ensure patients are coming on their appointed time.
  4. Remind the patients to come  ten minutes before their time to give leeway to document their visit.
  5. Tell patients that the schedule is very tight.  They need to come on their appointed time or else they will be moved to the last slot available for the day or the next clinic day. Do this always until they get it.
  6. Determine your appropriate visit length for the type of patients  you see. You can vary the visit length based on this.  Train your secretary to determine this for herself when patients make the appointment. You can opt to make specially designated days for certain patient visits as you see appropriate.  I assign a day  for my pediatric prenatal visits because this usually takes very long.
  7. If you wish to accommodate walk in patients, designate chunks of time during your clinic hours for it.  Inform your walk in patients that their next visit will be by appointment just like the rest.


If you have been doing this too, let me know how it works for you by writing on the comments below. I want to learn more on how this can work for me and my patients.


Make good use of your time. Help your patients make good use of their time too.