Why Your Doctor Is Always in a Hurry

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.

Doctor consulting with a pregnant woman
Tetra Images / Tetra Images / Getty Images

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 an 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."

Many 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 amount, 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 17 to 24 minutes with their doctor, depending on the negotiations that the 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, patients need to do what they can to make sure we maximize our time with our doctors ourselves. It's also important we make sure we get our questions answered.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hill E. Time is on your side: coding on the basis of timeFam Pract Manag. 2008;15(9):17‐21.

  2. Young RA, Burge SK, Kumar KA, Wilson JM, Ortiz DF. A Time-Motion Study of Primary Care Physicians’ Work in the Electronic Health Record Era. Fam Med. 2018;50(2):91-99. https://doi.org/10.22454/FamMed.2018.184803.