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Sizing Up Your Doctor's Office

How many times have you sat in a waiting room of a doctor that you have waited days, weeks, or even months to see, and wondered when it will be your turn? It can feel like an eternity, especially when you have planned your day around an appointment that you expect to be quick, and for which you put all other responsibilities on hold. For most of us, spare time is hard to come by, and waiting extended periods of time for a doctor who we may only see for 15 minutes or less is a hard concept to accept. 

So here is a short checklist for the next time you find yourself in such a situation. You can use this checklist to evaluate your visit to the doctor’s office or hospital clinic. As you work your way through the questions, be sure to be honest with your answers to see how your doctor and the staff measure up. Here we go!

1. When you arrived at the office, how would you rate the front desk and administrative staff in the way you were greeted and processed?

A) extremely pleasant and helpful

B) moderately pleasant and helpful

C) pleasant

D) helpful

E) neither pleasant or helpful

2. What is the amount of time you had to wait to get the appointment with your doctor?

A) less than a week

B) 1–4 weeks

C) 1–2 months

D) 2–4 months

E) more than 4 months

3. Once you arrived for your appointment, how long did it take to be brought back to the examination room?

A) less than 30 minutes

B) 21–60 minutes

C) 61–90 minutes

D) 91–120 minutes

3) more than 2 hours

4. Once you were in the examination room, how long did it take for the doctor to walk through the door?

A) less than 15 minutes

B) 16–30 minutes

C) 1–45 minutes

D) 46–60 minutes

E) more than 60 minutes

5. After walking through the door, how long did your doctor spend with you?

A) less than 5 minutes

B) 5–10 minutes

C) 10–20 minutes

D) 20–30 minutes

E) more than 30 minutes

6. When you were being seen by the doctor, did you feel rushed during the time he or she spent with you?

A) not rushed at all

B) somewhat rushed

C) the doctor seemed rushed, but I was OK with it

D) very rushed, and I felt I was not examined completely

E) totally rushed and the doctor was with me for less than 5 minutes

7. Did your doctor explain information in a way you understood?

A) I understood all of the information 

B) I understood most of the information

C) I understood some of the information

D) I barely understood the information

E) I didn’t understand anything the doctor said

8. Did you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions?

A) yes

B) no

C) I did not ask any questions

9. Does your doctor typically give you time to ask questions during your appointment?

A) always

B) often

C) sometimes

D) rarely

E) never

10. By the end of the appointment, did you feel all of your questions were answered?

A) all of them

B) most of them

C) some of them

D) a few of them

E) I did not ask any questions

11. When you are at home, if you have questions or need to talk to your doctor, do you receive a response in a timely manner?

A) always

B) often

C) sometimes

D) rarely

E) never

12. After talking to your doctor from home, do you feel more informed, and that each part of your question(s) was answered?

A) always

B) often

C) sometimes

D) rarely

E) never

Now we can grade the quiz, and see how your doctor and the staff did.

To grade the quiz, assign:

5 points for every time you answered A

4 points for every time you answered B

3 points for every time you answered C

2 points for every time you answered D

1 point for every time you answered E

Add up all of the points. If you ended up with 60 points, consider yourself very fortunate. You are having an excellent experience with your doctor and the staff, and you are most likely getting the best healthcare delivery you can. You might even want to let your doctor know how pleased you are. Feedback is important.

If you ended up with anywhere from 50 to 59 points, your doctor is still doing very well, and you should look at where the doctor received less than a perfect score and perhaps address the issue of the questions where you felt there was some improvement needed.

If you ended up with 24-58 points, pay close attention to where the encounter between you and your doctor is not working, based on the questions where you could not give anything better than a 4, and try to sit down with your doctor or the practice administrator to make them aware of your concerns.

Finally, if your final score is less than 23 points, perhaps it is time to find another doctor. It is a difficult decision to make for most patients, but if it is frustrating to visit your doctor, this frustration and anxiety is not contributing to your better health. A poor score indicates some major problems, and it may be time to find another doctor.

The Bottom Line - Be proactive, and make the encounter between you and your doctors a positive one based on trust, communication, and a positive emotional experience for you, the patient. Your health is worth it, and your better health depends upon it.

JULIA BALLARINI is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, and is a Senior Advocate for The Power of the Patient Project.


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