I have a pet peeve. I suppose it would be more accurate to admit to having a slew of pet peeves, but today I’m focusing on just the one. That is, the policy so many physicians have adopted that—with some variation—states that patients who are late for the appointment will be charged a missed or late appointment fee. The policy itself seems reasonable enough; it’s the hypocrisy of it that gets under my skin.
Allow me to explain.
As the mother of four children—one of whom has special needs—I would venture to guess that I’ve spent slightly above the average amount of time at the doctor’s office. I pride myself on being timely and, in spite of my family’s hectic schedule, I do manage to show up five or more minutes early for nearly all of my appointments. Which, of course, leaves me more than a little frustrated when I arrive on time only to be kept waiting in the lobby—and subsequently in the exam room—for an exorbitant amount of time. It is in those instances when I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy in those office policy late fees.
Last week, I took two of my daughters to a local oral surgeon (who shall remain nameless) for a consult. On the day of our appointment, I loaded up my girls and drove the forty-five minutes from my home in Vail to the midtown location of this particular office. You can imagine my dismay, then, when I arrived and was told that they could not see my daughter based on her insurance coverage. It is important to note that as I booked the appointment two weeks prior, I provided all of our insurance information to the receptionist. You read that correctly: the office was indeed aware of our insurance coverage when they scheduled the appointment. Yet during the two week lapse between my scheduling the appointment and my arrival on site, this surgeon’s office did not call me to inform me of the oversight. Rather, they waited until I wasted my time and gasoline for a trip to an appointment they refused to keep. If ever there were an occasion to turn the tables on those missed appointment fees, I should say that occasion most assuredly qualifies.
Here is what I want physicians to know about my time: it is no more or less valuable than that of a doctor. I am mindful of scheduling appointments, so as not to overbook my days. It is reasonable to assume that doctors could extend that same courtesy to their patients by honoring appointment times. And since doctors have no qualms charging their patients for late arrivals, it seems only right that when the doctor is the one running way behind, some degree of compensation is appropriate. I’m willing to bet that if the tables were turned on those late and/or missed appointment fees, there would be far fewer of us twiddling our thumbs in the waiting rooms of America.