Why Won't My Doctor Spend Enough Time with Me?

Doctors Are Often Paid by Insurers Per Patient

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Check up visit in doctor's office
Tetra Images/Tetra Images/Getty Images

Patients get frustrated when doctors breeze into an exam room, then breeze out again, leaving questions unanswered. It is not uncommon for a patient to spend several hours at a doctor's office at any given time, while only spending about fifteen or twenty of those minutes actually with the doctor.

When we understand why doctors do not spend enough time with us, we can take steps to maximize the amount of time granted or get seek to get potential questions answered elsewhere.

Doctors Have Incentive to See as Many Patients as Possible

Like too many questions in health care, the answer to why we are kept in the waiting room for so long is, "follow the money."

Doctors are paid by insurance and Medicare for every patient they see according to why they see the patient, and what procedures they perform for the patient, and (this is key) not by the amount of time they spend with the patient.

Those amounts are tied to an amount of time, according to the code for the diagnosis or procedure. For procedure A, they will get $X, regardless of how long it takes to complete procedure A. If they take too long, it costs them money. If they take less than the prescribed time, they will have extra time to do something else that can make them more money.

Findings have estimated that on average, patients can expect to spend no more than 10 to 16 minutes with their doctor, depending on the negotiations that doctor has made with that patient's insurance company.

It varies from insurance plan to insurance plan, or from Medicare or Medicaid. But the bottom line is, that because doctors are paid for the number of patients and number of procedures, and not how much time any of those take, there is a real incentive for the doctor to spend as little time as possible with each patient.

Therefore, we patients need to do what we can to make sure we maximize our time with our doctors ourselves. It's also important we make sure we get our questions answered.

More "Follow the Money" Examples

Continue Reading