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What if a Patient Bills Your Practice for a Long Wait Time?


A woman in Santa Ana, Calif., recently made news for actually billing her physician because she had to wait 45 minutes for a doctor’s appointment. What would your practice do?

I barely remember the last time I had to wait more than 20 minutes to see the doctor for a scheduled appointment (three years ago, maybe four?)

Sure, everyone occasionally suffers 45-minute waits, but when it comes to my medical care, I was willing to sit there with my book for as long as necessary. I accepted it as part of the deal (and, by the way, my U.K. friends who have subsidized healthcare often have to wait longer for the same care).

That was not the case for a woman in Santa Ana, Calif., who made news for actually going so far as to bill her physician for making her wait 45 minutes for a doctor’s appointment. The woman, who gets paid an hourly wage, reportedly deducted $150 from her $223 bill and sent a letter back to the practice explaining why she wouldn’t pay it in full.

The physician’s office agreed to the new fee.

"Over the years, I would find myself getting really mad, just sitting in a doctor's office with a magazine and waiting and waiting and waiting,” the woman told CBS News. “So, I finally decided I was going to just do something about it, and I did."

This article raises some interesting questions: Should this patient have sent the physician a bill? At what point is the time waited by a patient unreasonable?

Another physician quoted in the article told reporters he actually pays patients $50 when he runs late.
"A lot of people say, 'My time is valuable,’” Cyrus Peikari, an internist in Dallas, told reporters. “And physicians will charge no-show fees, for example, for $50. But, I think, to be truly just and fair, you have to go both ways."

Pediatrician William McAveney told Physicians Practice, via e-mail, that excessive waits usually happen for legitimate reasons, so he would not feel that sending a bill is appropriate.

“It does seem to me appropriate that there be a mechanism to evaluate issues of excessive wait times, and even offer some redress if it turns out that the patient was, e.g., put in an exam room and forgotten for a period of time due to poor office procedure,” he said.

We want to hear from you. Do you believe it’s fair to compensate patients who wait more than 30 minutes for an appointment? Post your reply below.


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