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Why is My Doctor Always Late?

Updated: May 12, 2021

Nothing is more annoying than rushing to get to your doctor appointment only to be told that your doctor is running 30 minutes late. Why does this seem to be the case more often than not? It seems like the number one complaint among patients is the waiting time.

In reality, the actual cause of the doctors tardiness is usually the patients. Now it is true that most doctors schedules are completely booked and there is not a lot of wiggle room. Also, as more practices are being purchased by large health networks, the length of a doctor appointment has decreased to around 20 minutes.

So what can go wrong....

1. A patient at the beginning of the day shows up late and the rest of the schedule is blown off course.

2. A patient didn't fill out the pre-appointment paperwork and now they are delayed getting into the exam room.

3. Patients with urgent problems need to be fit in throughout the day.

4. A patient might be at the office for a post hospital visit and the doctor has to sift through days of notes.

5. In between appointments, a doctor might be shown another patient's abnormal lab results and needs to take care of these results ASAP.

6. A patient is really sick in the office and needs to be admitted to a hospital.

7. A patient starts to cry or become emotional at the end of an appointment.

8. An appointment is winding down and the patient says "Oh by the way" or "just one more thing" about a new serious medical complaint which has to be dealt with in the moment.

What can a patient do?

1. If you are annoyed by waiting, you can request one of the first two appointments in the morning or after lunch (but the doctors I know don't necessarily take lunch).

2. Let the front desk know you have a tight schedule.

3. Be on time.

4. If your doctor is always late, call ahead to the office and see if she is running on time.

5. Understand that emergencies do happen and bring something to do while waiting.

It is nice to know that your doctor is running late because he is attending to the emergent needs of his patients. Realize that if you find yourself in an emergency he will take the time that is needed to be with you.


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