Thursday, March 1, 2012

Times are changing among healthcare professionals who have long struggled to decide what to do about people who miss their appointment for whatever reason. Some doctors are asking for a deposit on their appointment to be charged for with a credit card. If you miss the appointment, you will forfeit the deposit and must pay for your missed appointment. Insurance companies won’t be able to pay for missed appointments so it becomes your responsibility.

This results in a further adversarial relationship between doctors and patients. Patients are already upset by having to wait so long in order to see their doctor and now they’d have to pay if they missed the appointment. Popular doctors can have many patients waiting up to 4 hours to see him, believing that if patients really want to see him, they will wait. Another doctor had many patients blocked in to see him during the same time period and see them one at a time, with the last appointed patient seeing him several hours into the time block. Some patients come prepared for the wait, while others just leave after a half hour to 45 minutes.

Other doctors are much kinder, refunding the copay if the patient had to wait and providing waiting patients with an explanation as to why they had to wait so long. Really angry patients might not get charged at all and may be asked to switch medical providers to someone who isn’t late as often. The truth is that even medical providers get sick sometimes or have some kind of emergency and need to reschedule. They also run behind through no fault of their own.

Sometimes a patient has a crisis or a more serious health issue that takes more time than normal. Medical practitioners may not be able to provide services within a 15 minute period of time. By the time they see ten or more patients, the time of the appointment is meaningless because the doctor is already very far behind. Doctors can be late all day long if an early appointment takes longer than expected.

Some patients may elect to show up late for their appointments or may not even show up at all. In one case, a mom failed to show up for four back to back appointments for her four kids. She rescheduled and didn’t show up for the rescheduled appointments. She had Medicaid so that she couldn’t be charged for her missed visits.

So should doctors charge for late or missed appointments? Even though some doctors are already doing it, it seems a bit commercial and less professional than doctors should actually be.

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