Ever Try to Get a Doctor Appointment After Work?

Why do we keep seeing articles about people not getting annual checkups, tests, and immunizations? Ever try to get a doctor appointment after 6 pm or on a Saturday?

People who can afford to go to the doctor have jobs that pay for medical insurance. The majority of people who have jobs that pay for medical insurance tend to work during the daytime, sometime between 7 am and 7 pm. Doctors’ offices tend to be open and available for appointments during the daytime, around 9 am to 4 pm, often closing for an hour in the middle of the day for lunch.

What does that mean for someone who needs to go the doctor or who has a child who needs to go to the doctor? That means you have to take time away from work. Of course, most companies who pay all or part of your medical insurance also offer paid time off (PTO). In my case, my PTO hours are for sickness, doctor visits, vacation time, or anything else I want to do with my time. That means that if I take time off to go to the doctor, I don’t get that time for vacation. You have to be good about budgeting your time, which most people are not.

The easy solution is to offer appointments at night, early in the morning, and on weekends. Like most people, doctors, and their support staff want to work during “normal” working hours. But if you’re going to offer a service, you should offer it at a time that’s convenient for your customers (patients).

Have you ever gone to an “after hours” clinic or “urgent care” clinic at night or on a Saturday? Packed house, right? I would say that is a pretty good clue that after-hours and urgent-care clinics are in high demand. It makes sense to pay a premium to go to an urgent care clinic at 7 pm after your child slips in the bathtub and needs stitches, right? But does it make sense to pay a $75 “encounter fee” at an urgent care clinic when you need to get your annual pap smear? No, and I don’t think they even do that there.

Women and children have numerous annual checkups, tests, immunizations, etc. that require a doctor visit. Your appointment might only take 5-10 minutes, but you have to drive there, wait in the waiting room, and drive back to work for a total time of about an hour and a half (plus picking up/dropping off your child if the appointment is for him). I’ve had to wait in the OB/GYN office for 3 hours because the doctor was delivering a baby and had no doctors covering for her. To play it safe, I usually take a half day so I have plenty of time to and from and waiting. So let’s say 4-5 days of your PTO each year is spent going to, coming from, waiting for, and seeing a doctor just for routine check ups. If you only get one week of PTO per year, no vacation for you!

Recently, my son was trying to register for college, but couldn’t complete the process because he needed an immunization. I was going take time off from work to drive him to the doctor’s office, but had trouble finding an appointment that wasn’t a month away, and many I called said they didn’t offer the meningitis vaccine. Then I remembered the home care service that the company I work for subscribes to, but I’d never used it before, so there were several things that needed to be coordinated. Then I found out that Walgreen’s provides immunization services, so we went to Walgreen’s–on a Saturday.

Several years ago, I was coming down the stairs, tripped over a shoe in the middle of the stairs, attempted, mid-flight, to hop over the dog asleep at the bottom of the stairs, and instead rolled down the remaining stairs, slamming into the wall at the bottom of the stairs. My foot swelled up to the size of a watermelon and my back was not happy. I went to an urgent care clinic the next day, Saturday, to get my foot x-rayed to be sure it wasn’t broken. Thankfully, it was not broken, and I was sent home with a brace and pain pills. I commented to the doctor about how packed the waiting room was and the doctor said he and his partner were “surprised that there was such a need for urgent care during off hours.” Seriously? You didn’t realize people needed a doctor at times other than 9 am to 4 pm?

When I was a child, most cities “rolled up the sidewalks” at 6 pm or so. If you wanted a gallon of milk, you’d just have to wait until 9 or 10 the next morning when the stores opened. These days, there are few service-oriented establishments that are not open very early, very late, or 24 hours—with the exception of doctors, dentists, optometrists, veterinarians, and so on. How hard would it be to take appointments Tuesday through Saturday? Partner with other doctors for 24-hour coverage? Or take Wednesday off and work Saturday instead? Or even a half day on Saturday? Or open later in the morning and stay later that night two times per week? Even my dog’s doctor is open until 7 pm and takes Saturday walk-in appointments for half a day—and they are always packed, too.

So why do you keep seeing articles about people not getting annual checkups, tests, and immunizations? Perhaps it is because doctors are not making it convenient to do so.