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The Real Reason You May Be in Your Doctor's Waiting Room For Hours

01/31/2017 02:44pm ET | Updated February 1, 2018
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What rights do I have as a patient when the doctor I'm supposed to see with did not honor his appointment and made me wait for almost 2 hours? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by David Chan, MD from UCLA, Stanford oncology fellowship, on Quora:

What rights do I have as a patient when the doctor made me wait for two hours? You have the right to find another doctor and to send letters of complaint to the physician and your insurance company.

I'm a doctor and I've on more than one occasion kept patients waiting for two hours.

I have patients who come in for a routine checkup and end up with relapsing cancer found on my exam or a test. That changes a fifteen minute appointment into a sixty plus minute appointment, often involving a very freaked-out patient. Conference calls to spouses and scrambling to get additional scans or biopsies scheduled including calls to the imaging center, calls to the interventional radiologist and surgeon and calls to the physician insurance reviewer, which always involves more waiting. You'll listen to music, push a bunch of buttons, make a mistake and have to start over before getting a live person.

If that happens twice in a day, then I'm two hours behind.

The alternative would be for me to say to a patient "I'm sorry. I think that your cancer has returned. I'm not sure today where else it is or what we'll do about it. But your time is up. Please see my scheduler and make another appointment for an hour of my time. It may take you three or four weeks to get that appointment, but I'm sure you understand because patients are waiting in the waiting room."

I'm not doing that because it's not right.

All of my patients are free to see another doctor who might handle his/her practice that way. Especially if being on time is more important to them than having a doctor who goes "all hands on deck" when the stuff hits the fan.

But when I'm late, I do rely on my staff to make it very clear to my patients that I'm running way late and give them the option to reschedule. I'm not offended if they do reschedule. They have important things to do as well.

And I'll take my chances that my patients understand that I'm taking care of some serious stuff and that I'm not stepping out of the exam room to explain and apologize.

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