The Dentist’s Office

I’m certain that we all have our fair share of stories in dealing with medical care providers – doctors office, dentists, labs, hospitals. And to those who are in the field and to whom this story does not pertain, my apologies in advance. My personal issue with the medical establishment is not the level of care I receive, but with the utter lack of ability the vast majority (again in my personal experience) of physicians, dentist and lab/testing offices have for developing and operating a scheduling system that considers the patient’s time as well as the doctor’s. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the physician/dentist, et al, I’m assuming the majority of these issues arise not due to the specific physician’s lack of interest in the value of our time, but in the lack of structured process associated with scheduling appointments. But here’s the issue. That appointment scheduled for 15 minutes is NEVER a 15 minute appointment. So, why does it exist. And how is that 15 minutes measured? A unit of time is a finite measure. It cannot be created. If I have the first appointment of the day at 8am and; lets assume I show up 2 minutes early; I have no forms to fill out in the waiting room; am a current patient and my name is called exactly at 8am, how is that 15 minutes consumed? By the time I walk down the hall from the waiting room to the exam room, put on the smock designed by someone with a twisted sense of humor, give a ‘sample’ and sit up on the exam table, at best, 6-7 minutes have elapsed. So, then lets say, again best case scenario, I only sit there for two minutes before the doctor comes in. That gives my physician and me 6-7 minutes to diagnose and treat whatever is ailing me. There goes the rest of the schedule. It snowballs from there and you know the rest of the story. The last patient of the day, who’s appointment is at 5pm, and who shows the doctor the courtesy of arriving at 4:50, will be lucky to see his doctor by 6pm. So, to my most recent personal experience. A couple of weeks ago I had my semi-annual routine dental visit at 9am on a Tuesday; my dentist’s first appointment of the day. Having a two week old baby and a 2 year old toddler at home; well for those of you that have been, or are there, you know how smooth mornings are at your house. Fortunately, my dentist’s office is less than 2 miles from my house. So, I headed out, climbed the stairs to the office and opened the door at 9:06. As I approached the reception desk, a finer reception I’ve never received. “Are you Dr. B’s 9am??”, she asked. Now, if I was going to change my name, “Dr. B’s 9am” would not be my first choice, but ok, I played along. “Yes, sorry I’m a few minutes late” as I surveyed the deserted waiting room (never has something been so appropriately named). Her reply came in the form of rolled eyes and a glace at the clock. After an uncomfortable silence, I finally asked if there was a problem. “Do I need to reschedule? It’s 9:07” Again, I got nothing in reply but a scowl. I turned. And as I took a step back towards the door, ready to leave, finally another assistant asked me to wait and went to find the dentist. After what was apparently very serious consideration for having me come back another time, I was told: “Ok, the doctor can still take you” OH HAIL! Thank you! How can I ever repay this kind gesture? I know. Next time, I’ll show up at 8:45 so they can take me at 9:15. If I’m lucky.


  1. You wrote this so long ago you may not even remember it….but I'd like to second this reaction! I hate to say it, but I do believe the 15 minute scheduling is purposeful and financially driven. I've tried arriving at the time I think my appointment will actually start, but if you do that, you get pushed behind everyone else who arrived before you, even if their appointment is after yours, or if they walked in! Good grief, even restaurants are nicer than that.

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