"Waiting room. I hate when they make you wait in the room. 'Cause it says "Waiting room." There's no chance of not waiting … they're going to use it. They've got it. It's all set up for you to wait." - Jerry Seinfeld.
The healthcare fix I propose is the abolition of doctors' waiting rooms. At minimum, I'd like a sharp reduction in the time spent in them.
The closest I've ever come to seeing a doctor on time is when my doctor's secretary called me at 2.30pm one afternoon asking if I could come in at 3.00 instead of 3.15. The doctor had important afternoon plans, she confided. I turned up at 3.00, but still had to wait until 3.15.
But I was happy; fifteen minutes is nothing. According to a report by Press Ganey Associates – a health-care consulting firm that surveyed 2.4 million patients at more than 10,000 locations – the average wait time to see a health-care provider is twenty-two minutes. And I'd love to visit those locations! My average wait time in New York City is probably around forty minutes.
And those forty minutes are just in the outer waiting room. Doctors often play mind games with patients: After your name is called and you triumphantly put down the outdated copy of US Weekly (where Donald Trump is just a celebrity rather than a wannabe politician, and Kim Kardashian still plays second fiddle to Paris Hilton) you've been using to fan yourself, you're escorted into an inner room – where once again you're told to wait.
Initially you feel good being in the inner room. Not only are there more recent magazines, but you can often also glimpse the doctor moving between rooms down the corridor. Surely, it'll be your time soon. Then, after you've consulted your watch for the thirtieth time (and confirmed with the person next to you that yes, it really is already 4.00), and begun to feel that perhaps the pain in the eardrum you wanted examined is not worth the headache you've picked up from sitting in the waiting rooms, a nurse escorts you into the doctor's office.
Victory at last? Not quite. It's another ruse: The doctor usually has more than one office, and you'll end up sitting staring at his diploma on the wall– and even start playing word games with the letters in his school's name – while you wait. Then the door opens, and … it's a nurse, who asks a series of questions – that the doctor will end up asking you again anyway, but it buys them more time. (Incidentally some doctors privately call this the "Walt Disney model": Theme park lines have multiple stages, each one designed with new distractions and scenery to make you think that you're almost there, but in reality it's just a ploy to disguise the fact that you're still waiting in the same line.)