Recently one of my friends posed the question as to why her Ob/Gyn physician would routinely run at least 45 minutes late, with the caveat that she would be fired for doing the same to one of her clients. In typical fashion, I posted a long, rambly, and overly detailed answer in her comments section, after (thankfully) seeing a lot of other friends chime in on their personal experiences with their particular physicians. I realized that this is most likely a very universal wonder/complaint, so I am re-posting my response for you, my dear readers. I am sure you have pondered this at least once whilst sitting on an exam table, shivering in a paper gown.
Allow me to describe my day, in order to better explain why we may routinely run late. Today I am on call, and so, while I am responsible for all that happens on labor and delivery, in the office, I do have patients scheduled. The majority of patients are OB visits, most of which rarely take more than 5-10 minutes tops for routine appointments. We also will see check problem patients (early pregnancy bleeding, labor checks, blood pressure issues, hangnail, etc.) So, our scheduling staff (none of whom are medically inclined or have any clue what we do on a day-to-day basis) has most "on call" schedules looking something like this:
8:30 OB patient 1:15 OB patient
8:45 OB patient 1:30 OB patient
8:45 OB patient 1:45 OB patient
9:00 OB patient 1:45 OB patient
9:15 OB patient 2:00 OB patient
9:15 Problem 2:15 OB patient
9:30 OB patient 2:30 Problem
9:45 OB patient 2:45 OB patient
9:45 OB patient 2:45 OB patient
10:00 OB patient 3:00 Problem
10:15 OB patient 3:15 OB patient
10:30 Problem 3:15 OB patient
10:45 OB patient 3:30 OB patient
10:45 OB patient 3:45 OB patient
11:00 Problem 4:00 Problem
So, we have anywhere from 5 to 7 patients scheduled in an hour, and if everything is hunky-dory, there are no issues, long litanies of questions, no problems, or complications, I can generally run on time for these appointments (and by, "on time" I mean that once the patient checks in (usually running at least 5 minutes late, themselves) the nurse talks to them, does any necessary screening labs, checks their weight, urine and BP, listens to fetal heart tones, brings me the chart, which I then review, I am seeing them at *best* 15 to 20 minutes past their original appointment time).
Then, add in the inability to predict labors (I had a couple of laboring patients today) and scheduled procedures (I had 2 cervical ripenings and a C-section scheduled-not by me-at 7:30 am and then another scheduled C-section at noon. Unfortunately, one of my laboring patients delivered at 12:15, smack in the middle of when I was supposed to do my noon C-section, so the section was put on hold until after the delivery. So, by the time I finished the (complicated) scheduled C-section, did all the necessary charting and orders for both deliveries (mind you, not having any time for lunch) I was able to get back into the office by 3 pm. If I am lucky (today I was), my colleagues will have mercy on both the patients and me and pick up a few charts to see patient or two in between their already over-packed schedules. If I am not, then all of the patients scheduled from 1:15 are still waiting to be seen at 3 pm.
So, (whew) does this make it a little more clear why we are not running on the spot of time? It is completely different than making one appointment (that you probably schedule yourself, when it is convenient for you, allowing for travel time, and keeping in mind how long you expect most meetings to go) with one client for the span of 30 minutes or an hour, so the two are really just not comparable...at all. Hope that this helps the next time you are waiting for your physician. P.S. If you grow to expect the long waits, start bringing entertainment (iPo.d, magazines, books, cell phone bejeweled or solitaire) or little projects you can do (bills, checkbook, cleaning out your purse), and know, it really could be worse. Back in Whoo-ville, OtherDoc's patients would wait for him for upwards of 3 hours...now *that* is ridiculous. ;)