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Cobwebs From Your Doctor

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The long wait. (credit: Dr. Dave Hnida)

The long wait. (credit: Dr. Dave Hnida)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


When you need to see your doctor, you need to see your doctor.

But as you well know, it’s not unusual to be told something along the lines of: “Let’s see. Hmmmm. The doctor can see you … two weeks from … uh … next Tuesday.”

Not exactly what you want to hear when your throat feels like a raging fire, or your twisted ankle is swollen like a blimp.

But “hurry up and wait” seems to the rule rather than the exception when it comes to getting in to see your physician.

And non-urgent evaluations are even worse than when you need some stat medical care because of illness.

The Commonwealth Funds analyzed wait times in a group of major cities across the U.S. and found that, odds are, you will get cobwebs waiting by that phone for a much-needed appointment.

Here’s the average “wait” times for a non emergency appointment in the Denver metro area for a variety of specialties, as well as the best/worst wait times across the country:

Cardiology
– Denver: 28 days
– Washington DC: 32 days
– Philadelphia: 6 days

Dermatology
– Denver: 37 days
– Boston: 72 days
– L.A.: 6 days

Ob/Gyn
– Denver: 22 days
– Boston: 46 days
– Seattle: 10 days

Orthopedics
– Denver: 15 days
– San Diego: 18 days
– Minneapolis: 5 days

Family Practice
– Denver: 16 days
– Boston 66 days
– Dallas : 5 days

Pretty widespread, with overall Denver being “average” when looking at about a dozen cities analyzed. But it seems like Boston is a bad place to have anything happen to you. Philly? The best place to get chest pain. And LA if you need some rash looked at — or lines and wrinkles touched up.

How about if you are sick as a dog, and really do need to be seen quickly? As in same day? Overall, only 48% of people are able to get into their primary care for an urgent problem the day illness strikes.

So what can you do?

Not a lot of advice here, but I would suggest a few things.

If you know you have a routine check up coming up, make your appointment today. That way a few weeks won’t make you crazy.

If you need to get in more quickly, tell the staff to please call if there is a last minute cancellation — in other words- be flexible.

Don’t be shy about calling the office every few days to see if anything has opened up.

And when first picking your doctor(s), choose those with flexible, staggered, evening and weekend hours. And be sure to ask before committing, “What is your average wait time to get an appointment?”

Last but not least, don’t think doctors are immune from this cobweb problem if we need health care. Last time I called to schedule a fairly routine recheck, I was told it would be six weeks. Maybe.

Which is why I now have a new doctor.

I don’t like cobwebs.

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