Sleep and TMJ therapy The Case of the Chronically Late

I know you are all used to sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and are prepared to just ‘wait’ like a good little boy or girl patient, but that’s not the case in my office. Many years ago I started something new and different in my office- it’s called ‘not waiting’. As an example, yesterday our 1:00 pm patient showed up 10 minutes early. We sat her within a minute or two and saw her BEFORE her appointed time. She barely sat down when one of my assistants asked her to come on back and since you were early we would see you early. One thing I realized many years ago is that time is a precious commodity, and not only should we not waste our own time, we should also not waste other people’s time.

Maybe this goes back to being just plain polite with others, showing respect, or even really showing that you care. But it goes both ways. I will admit that it drives me insane when one of our patients is late time and time again. In other words, they just could not show up on time if they had to! As an example, the other day I remembered that Cindy Lou Who (not her real name) was always late for her 3:20 appointment, and sure enough she showed up 15 minutes late, which made her 40 minute appointment cut short a good bit. She just showed up like it was nothing that she missed nearly half of her appointment and expected to be seen anyway. This has happened many times with her. Of course we still saw her. Of course we took good care of her, but it still irked me that she did not respect me or my team enough to make the effort to be on time. Perhaps I take it personally and expect too much from others. But, dear reader, I am here in my office at 4:30 am, typing this blog so that I can review my charts and MRI’s for the day and be ON TIME and AWARE of each appointment. That is what I do so am I expecting too much when I ask that you the patient be prepared and on time as well?

For certain patients who are like this -i.e. they could not show up on time for anything in their life- we treat them like they are booking an airline flight. They are required to pre-pay for that appointment and if they no show, then they lose their money. And if more than half late for the appointment, their money is gone. Simple as that. I honestly hate being this way, but how else can I make them respect the time, and us as well?

The other issue with the chronically late is that the next person on the schedule who really does respect our time is cheated on their time if I run late because of the person before them. That is just not right at all! These days we tell our patients to please be early for their appointment, and it works sometimes, but not always. We do have a lovely waiting area with coffee, tea, and water bottles, so there is no reason not to be a few minutes early. The funny thing is that our patients notice that the waiting room is always empty- we planned it that way actually. We don’t want anyone waiting, so we don’t make them wait. What a concept! No waiting in the waiting room!

In truth, we do have some people wait because of the person before them who was late and now demands their full time. I am working on a solution for that- maybe one of these days I will figure it out. Until then, I will keep waiting for a solution!