8 ways to land a doctor appointment sooner

| Kathryn Jones

Scheduling an appointment to see your dermatologist can be frustrating. According to the results of a 2014 survey conducted by physician consultant firm Merritt Hawkins, the average wait time to see a dermatologist can take as long as 72 days or 16 days at the minimum . 

If you’re looking to speed things up a bit, Dr. Steven Q. Wang shared eight easy tricks for getting in sooner. Dr Wang is the co-founder of Dr. Wang Skincare, maker of natural and non-steroidal ointments for people with eczema and psoriasis, as well as director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, N.J. He recently shared eight easy tricks for getting in to your physician's office sooner.

1.    Don’t wait to the last minute. 

“If you don’t have a dermatologist or have never seen one in the past, it's a good idea to find a dermatologist to perform a complete skin exam and check for skin cancer,” Wang advised. “Every year, more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. Hopefully, you will have a clean bill of health. This initial visit will establish a relationship with you and your dermatologist.”

2.    Ask to be placed on a wait list. 

“It’s not uncommon that patients cancel their doctor’s visit on the same day or a few days prior to their appointments,” Wang said. “To quickly fill those open slots, most doctors’ offices have a wait list. Be prepared to provide the best contact number as well as email address to the staff. If you have an open and flexible schedule or live nearby the office, be sure to mention that information to the staff. They may be more likely to call you, instead of someone else, because of your flexibility.”

3.    Be willing to see another doctor in the same office.

“A busy practice will try to recruit new physicians to accommodate the increasing number of patients and shorten the wait time,” Wang said. “If there is a new physician in the practice, chances are he or she may not have a full schedule. It may be easier to get an appointment with the new dermatologist for that emergency skin condition, such as a suspicious lesion on the arm that has recently changed in color and starts to bleed.”

For more advice, visit Dr. Wang’s blog

4.    See a physician extender. 

“Because of the shortage of dermatologists, most offices have physician extenders such as nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants, who are under the direct supervision of the physicians. For minor issues, the physician extenders can easily manage and take care of you. If the condition is more difficult, a physician may be brought into the exam room and consulted for their opinions,” according to Wang.

5.    Ask to speak to a nurse. 

“The administrative staff, such as a receptionist or individuals who answer incoming phone calls and book appointments, may not have the proper clinical knowledge or training to understand what is a medical emergency versus a routine skin condition,” he said. “If you feel that you have an urgent medical condition, it's a good idea to ask to speak to a nurse who can decide if you have an urgent situation. It’s important not to fake an emergency because then you’re taking valuable slots away from other people who may be seriously ill.”

6.    If you work in health care, say so.

“If you work in the health care profession or settings, be sure to mention your profession to the staff. It’s a common courtesy practiced by many offices to accommodate the need of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals,” said Wang, adding, “It’s important not to lie about your profession.”

7.    Be kind to the nurses and receptionists. 

“It's frustrating to wait a long time for your appointment. Please do not direct your frustration at the receptionist or the nurse who are trying to help you,” Wang suggested. “If you are genuinely kind and nice to the staff, people in the office will remember you and will go out of their way to help you. By the same token, if you’re nasty and rude, everyone will know as well.”

8.    Be a VIP. 

“Ideally, every patient should be treated like a VIP, but the reality is that there are certain patients who are beloved by the office staff. They are treated like VIPs,” Wang said. “There are actions you can take. Be kind and nice to nurses, receptionist and physicians. Get to know the office staff, remember their names, their family members, hobbies and interests. Although it is not necessary, most staffs welcome refreshments and food brought by their patients.”


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