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Being a Patient Patient 

By Matt Cavallo
AdobeStock_171054877-sq.jpgBefore I got diagnosed with MS, I never saw the doctor. Now, I average four to six doctors’ appointments per year, two lab draws, two MRI brain and spine studies – with and without contrast dye. With these appointments come the inevitable wait times, whether it is in the office or on the phone.

None of us like to wait. However, when it comes to healthcare, wait times are one of the most common complaints. It is also commonly accepted that we as patients have no control over our wait times. Whether it is waiting for months to get an appointment to see a specialist or waiting hours to get a blood draw needed for our MS medications, we are expected to be patient patients. 

The waiting game does not have to be a reality for you. Here are some tips that you can use to minimize wait time for medical services:

* Choose your appointment time carefully: When scheduling an appointment, the timing of the appointment can determine how long the wait will be. The first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch will have the least amount of wait time. Appointments are scheduled in tight time increments, so if the doctor spends extra time with each patient, then wait times increase. Getting the first appointment of the day or first appointment after lunch, gives you the advantage of not having anyone in front of you, so there will be minimal wait times. You can ask the scheduler for these appointments, even if it may take a couple days extra to find these optimal time-of-day appointments. 

* Schedule your appointment online if possible: Do not go directly to a lab that offers online scheduling. Walk-ins at a lab are not seen until the scheduled appointments have been seen. The morning is the worst time to walk into a lab because many of the other patients had to fast overnight. If your lab does not require fasting and you don’t have a scheduling option, try after lunch. The busiest time of day at the lab is in the morning. Online scheduling is the preferred way to go as you can be in and out quickly with no wait.

* Complete paperwork ahead of time: When you schedule an appointment, ask if you can complete the intake paperwork ahead of time. Most medical services have patient portals where you can download intake and other paperwork or ask if they can email it to you. If you complete your paperwork ahead of time, you do not have to show up early to complete it. 

* Know when to call: The busiest time to call an office is the right when the office opens. Waiting until after lunch to call on a health service can often cut down the hold times. Also, people tend to call early in the week. By Thursday or Friday, the call volumes can drop. The least busy time to talk to a health provider is typically Friday afternoon as most people are then focused on their weekend, and not healthcare calls.

* Set expectations. The most important lesson is to set proper expectations. Go into an appointment knowing that even if you follow all of these tips, there could still be some wait times. You don’t want to let frustration of waiting effect your appointment. 

Try to follow these tips and focus on what you can control, but remember patience is a virtue, especially when you are a patient.