What to do while you wait for the doc


Denise Mann, MS

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You do your best to arrive on time, but your doctor is running behind with other patients. There are lots of reasons why you may have to wait longer than expected to see your doctor. And you are in good company—the average wait time for a doctor’s appointment in the U.S. is about 20 minutes. Regardless, you now have some time on your hands.

Instead of getting stressed and possibly complaining to the receptionist, make the most of your extra time. Here are 12 productive things to do while waiting to see your doctor. 

1. Write down or review your questions and concerns. 

It’s easy to get flustered while visiting your doctor, so take this downtime and outline your concerns. Write down as much detail as you can about your symptoms. For example, do your joints hurt more in the morning or after a hard day’s work? Is your stomach more likely to get upset after you consume dairy products or spicy foods? These important clues will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis. Leave room in the margins to note answers to questions and action items. Preparing ahead will help you make the most of the time you have with your doctor.

2. Update your contact and medical information. 

Things change. Use your wait time to make sure your doctor’s office has all of the recent, relevant and potentially life-saving details about you. This includes your primary and secondary insurance, known allergies, current medication list, medical history, and your preferred pharmacy’s phone number. This can be done using pen and paper or via a patient portal if it is available at the practice. 

3. De-stress.  

Stress makes everything worse. One survey found that 9 out of 10 patients are aggravated by extended waiting time. Instead of stewing, listen to music or use a phone app to meditate. Taking deep calming breaths may also help keep stress levels low. 

4. Spring-clean your emails.

Catch up on emails, delete old, unwanted ones and remove yourself from unnecessary mailing lists. These are the sorts of exercises that we never seem to have time for. De-cluttering your inbox feels freeing and will really lighten up your e-load. At the same time, update your phone’s apps. Just remember to silence and put away your phone when it’s time to visit with the doctor.

5. Text or Write to a friend.

Phone calls are disruptive and distracting to other people in the waiting room. But you can text a buddy and plan a happy hour or weekend brunch so you have something to look forward to. Waiting for the doctor is also a good time to put pen to paper and write an old-fashioned note to a friend or family member.

6. Resolve to make a healthy change.  

Resolutions tend to be overwhelming, which is why many people don’t stick to them. Instead, take this time to resolve to change one thing related to your wellness. It could be as small as drinking more water throughout the day or flossing after you brush your teeth.

7. BYORM (bring your own reading material or magazine). 

Unfortunately, you can’t count on your doctor to have the most recent and interesting magazines in the waiting room. One study found that waiting room magazines are outdated largely because patients take home the new ones. A better bet is to bring your own book, magazine, or reading tablet. Catch up on reading that really matters to you.

8. Organize photos on your smartphone or tablet. 

Much like getting rid of old, emails, arranging the photos and videos on your smartphone or tablet can feel real good. The trip down memory lane will often put a smile on your face. After all, it’s hard to feel stressed when looking at a photo of your three-year-old and miniature schnauzer gussied up for Halloween.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 9, 2017

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