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July 13th, 2009
03:42 PM ET

Waiting and waiting and waiting

From CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen:

On a recent CNN Empowered Me! Friday segment, we had advice for patients who have been charged for missed doctors appointments  [see the video: The high cost of Standing up your doctor]. We got quite the response, from both patients and doctors! We would love to give doctors the opportunity to respond to the #1 question we had from viewers.

Many wanted to know, what recourse does a patient have when a physician is running significantly late for an appointment?  Many viewers argued that their time is equally as valuable as the doctors.  Some wondered if their next appointment should be free if they come in for an 11am appointment but aren’t seen until 1pm. How would you address these concerns? Has your practice developed a policy that might offer a good solution?

Our request is directed at doctors, but if anyone else out there has thoughts, we'd love to hear from you as well!  Just shoot us an email at

Filed under: Heidi Collins
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. michael armstrong sr.

    there just trying to reclaim the money's lost in the recent obama plan

    July 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  2. David

    It's possible that a doctor is dealing with an emergency, at the hospital, working with an elderly patient who has many questions, and so might be late for an appointment.

    I feel dissappointed when my physician is running behind, or when I might have to wait 3 or 4 days to make an appointment. Waiting for an hour or so is not too bad compared to waiting for months to be seen though.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  3. melanie

    the question is not about the potention healthcare solutions we need Congress to give us but about the existing problems within the system where I can go and sit for 3.. 4 hours.. missing work that I have to make up or get in trouble for being gone because the current system has doctors stacking up patients in such a way that there is no way to keep the time of the appt. While they will charge me an office visit if I don't show, I have no options but to wait. Stay focused on the topic. In MY experience, when a doctor has an emergency, they reschedule, or let you know he's running behind. This question is when the doctor is there but has more patients than he/she can manage.

    I waited 4 hours once for a doctor who had so many patients stacked up it was ridiculous. The window kept saying "any minute" I had meetings and work to do yet I sat and waited. After 4 hours I left, they called me 2 days later apologizing and offering to make me an appt. I declned and switched doctors. It's not a solution, it's simply what I did.

    Doctors are put in an impossible position to see more patients than they can. Largely by practices that demand a certain amount of money be made. They are permited 15 minutes to talk with a patient and are pressured to earn more and more, not only because they have hundred thousand in debt to repay for their education but because the practice is so expensive to run under the rules of insurance, it demands more of each doctor to meet the costs

    Patients are held by rules of their Health Care Insurance and are limited in their choices. I don't believe Doctors want to make patients wait for hours

    July 14, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  4. David

    A lot of complaining in the headline to this post. Sounds like someone waiting at a hairdresser not a doctor's office.

    July 15, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  5. J

    What many physicians don't want you to know is long patient waiting lines are due to their staff stuffing their faces with all the catored food brought in by all the drug reps. Many will deny this, but when it comes to paid conferences, they'd much rather be interested in knowing where their next travel accomodations will come from, what foods are on today's menu, and what time the drug reps hired massage person will be coming in to give rub downs in the offices.

    Make Pharma Guidelines actual laws, otherwise this will continue to be done on our valuable time. Oh, I think I hear a drug rep coming, i need to go now! LOL

    July 15, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  6. David

    My physician can't relate to me on any level. That's what I'm told. It's not true, but I feel like I'm going to die trying to rebut all the doubt and negativity that comes my way. I feel like I'm always stemming the tide.

    July 16, 2009 at 9:29 am |
  7. Lane

    I don't understand how politics comes into effect here as noted by a previous post. Obama's health care plan has nothing to do with this matter. It's nothing more than bad office management and the arrogance of some doctors that cause these waits. Yes sometimes one appointment will take some extrra time. If this is the case the office should tell you and give you the opportunity to reschedule with some priority for you next time. Also, maybe these doctors should realize that taking the hour or longer lunch is not acceptable in their type of business. I worked at my jobs since I was 15 years old and never was I allowed more than 30 minutes for lunches except when I was in the Navy, and we all know that is much different than in the civilian world.

    July 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  8. Mary

    I would like to hear obama, members of the senate and congress telling me that they too will be included in this health care reform, or if they will continue and/or take with them upon leaving their posts, the health care coverage they now enjoy that is paid for by taxpayer money, said health care to include themselves and their families. This decision for health care reform is UNJUST because it is being ruled upon by cowards, both democrats and republicans, who have one agenda and that agenda is to not commit "political suicide" by agreeing with a president who has an "axe to bear." If these individuals give me the health care plan that they presently enjoy, I will volunteer to be the first one in line to sign up; until then, I am more than happy to sit in my doctor's office for hour upon hour and pay the premium I currently pay for my health care, because I know my doctor is worth it, and because it is highly unlikely that obama, the senate and congress will be held to the same standard of health care that they are trying to force on me. In closing, why would a decision that affects so many TAXPAYERS not be presented to the TAXPAYERS for a VOTE rather than ARBITRARILY forced on us by one man, that man of course being obama. I would like to have a free choice in a free country in a free state to have a VOICE in this matter.

    July 16, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  9. Ted Weaver

    Whoa whoa, I thought the existing healthcare system was perfect and that we shouldn't be fixing what isn't broken??? You mean the doctor isn't meeting me in the parking lot like some valet as I get out of my car? Oh I can hear the right wingers...hey, if you want commie healthcare, that 3 to 4 hour wait will turn into 3 to 4 months! Nice try special-Ed. Actually, when I lived in Japan (nationalized healthcare), I went into the clinic with no appointment and sat down with about a 100 people waiting to be seen. Oh I forgot to mention....I sat for only 1 hour!!!!.....the appointment was to see a specialist!!!! was on a Saturday!!!!...and the total bill was about 20 bucks!!!!!!! How ya like them apples NASCAR fans???

    July 17, 2009 at 2:50 am |
  10. Tom

    I think it would be fair for all Americans to help support the healthcare of those who are truly indigent. The question is – how many of the 50 million Americans without insurance are truly indigent – as opposed to those who choose wide screen giant TVs, lavish vacations, cars, and other luxuries over their healthcare?

    July 17, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  11. Sean

    get a different doctor!

    July 17, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  12. andy graham

    I can't believe we're even having this conversation ... NO!

    July 17, 2009 at 10:13 am |
  13. Garry Nadler

    Taxing the "rich" sounds good, and Democrates like doing it. But such tactics don't work in the long run. Wealthy Americans already pay the bulk of all taxes, while those that might beneft pay only a small percentage. Thisis just another attempt at wealth redistribution.

    Levying fines on businesses won't work unless the fines are higher than the cost of providing coverage. Fines on those who do not buy coverage won't work unless the fines are higher than the premiums. All that takes a huge government beauacracy just to keep track. How can that lower the cost of Heathcare?

    Also, taxing Insurance Companies, Doctors and Hospitals won't work either because they are businesses. No Business ever pays taxes – you and I do since such businesses just raise their prices to cover the added costs. Taxes are a cost.

    Why can't the government just pay for the Healthcare Insurance premiums on a minimal policy for those that can't afford it.. There could be a sliding scale whereby higher income folks get less financial help.

    We don't need a new program – we need leaders who know that there are consequences to every action, no matter how well intentioned they might be.

    July 17, 2009 at 10:23 am |
  14. Penell Skinner

    Listen! It's disgusting in this wealthy country that you use the phrase "Tax the rich to pay for the poor." We are ALL paying taxes in accordance with our incomes. If you want to live on a desolate island by yourself – go do it. If you choose to live in a society there should be rules of sane behavior and an economic system which permits a reasonable life for all. Taxes are part of living in a society today.
    As long as the tax bite at each economic level permits "reasonable" disposable income, then that's what it takes. Let's not forget that there still exists in the tax code, deductions. So taxes still leave a "reasonable" life style. Let's stop stirring up anger in America.

    July 17, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  15. Ed

    Having the option to choose health care that will not turn you down even with a pre existing condition and at an affordable cost is amazing it should not be funded by taxing those who work hard for their money.

    July 17, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  16. CaryGson

    I'm afraid I've never understood why tax rates should be higher because you earn more. I already pay more because I earn more. Why should that tax rate increase as well? Unfortunately this approach usually results in wages being hiked higher so the take hom pay remains the same resulting in the higher cost of the goods or services. How about focusing on funding the reforms from by taxing the causes of poor health such as tobacco, alcohol, and fast food taxes?

    July 17, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  17. Richard

    I think it is ridicules that the government thinks that taxing the rich anymore will actually work in the long run. I used to think the government knew something I did not and thats why they do things so backwards. But the more I see, the more I hear, the more i realize they are just out there spending till they drop. Bottom line is that they are taxing the people that made this country what it is so that those that don't want to work, don't have to. It's just not right!!!!

    July 17, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  18. Dr. Tara Solomon

    I have been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in South Florida for nearly 13 years. I cannot believe that some of the physicians down here are charging for missed appointments. Most of my patients who miss appointments have legitimate reasons such as the flu, childcare or a family emergency. I can often get them in for an appointment within one week. Physicians often have emergencies as well which can result in missed office hours. Does this mean I should compensate my patients when I miss my office hours? This is a two way street and I think we all need to be considerate of each other's precious time.

    July 18, 2009 at 3:54 am |
  19. Randy


    I have always enjoyed your show and watch you each day if I can, you are very good at what you do so thank you for that.

    I was watching this segment about physicians that are "late" for their appointments, some are habitual.

    There have been lawsuits brought against doctors in the past in small claims court type actions that have been successfully won by the plaintiff and the court has awarded monetary damages for the loss of their time against the defendent which is the doctor for the loss of the patient's time which can cause them to lose money when it puts them late also. I think the old saying "time is money" is very true and we all need to be held accountable for following our schedules the very best that we can.

    While I don't have particular cases to submit for review, I do know that this has happened more than once and the courts have gone in favor of the plaintiff which is the patient. I am sure if anyone is interested, they can find the particular cases where this happened.


    July 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  20. susan snyder

    I have a brilliant idea for financing health care. TAX THE OBESE!! They are the ones who are costing us so much $$ when they get diabetes, heart attacks, etc. And we should Tax them BY THE POUND that they are so overweight!! Just think of all the $$ we could collect.

    (just want you to know..I am kidding)

    July 29, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  21. Randy


    I had hoped you were kidding about your comment, it will be interesting to see how this all turns out but something has to be done and soon.

    There is still waste and greed to contend with, I have seen doctors that will do nothing but converse for 10 minutes and then bill you for 350.00 because they know that insurance will pay for it. To me, that is absolutely verging on the criminal side and when that happens I do let the insurer know about it and they do take action, they don't want to lose any more money than they have to.

    It's time to hold health care providers accountable for what they do or don't do and also the patient has to be held accountable for doing their part as well. Maybe it is time to start publically rating medical providers, the good ones will thrive and the poor ones will not fare nearly as well.

    I really don't think we need to tax anyone, there are other ways of fixing these problems and paying for a good plan without even having to go there.

    I support Mr. Obama's attempts at getting good healthcare for everyone and hope that the Congress and Senate can work with him to get this going as soon as possible....America can't wait any longer for this to happen.


    July 29, 2009 at 10:21 am |

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