When a mystery ailment pops up but it isn’t serious enough to warrant a trip to the urgent-care clinic or ER, you’d still like to get it checked out soon. The only problem: Your doctor’s a busy guy.
On average, you’ll need to wait 19.5 days to see a family doctor, says a recent survey by healthcare company Merritt Hawkins.
Special appointments are even worse. The delay for dermatology, for example, is 28.8 days.
There’s no magic word that will make other patients’ appointments vanish off the calendar, but you have more scheduling power than you think. Use these tactics to make sure you get seen as soon as possible.
1. Have a Primary Care Doctor
If you already have a regular physician, you can skip this step. But if you don’t have a go-to GP, then find one now and schedule an appointment while you’re well.
The reason: New patients are generally required to have a longer appointment for their first visit. As a result, there are fewer available windows to squeeze you in, says Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., associate director of the Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research.
You don’t want that obstacle when you actually need an appointment. If you think it’s a pain to be proactive, just imagine how much of a pain it is to have to wait 3 weeks for an appointment when you really need it.
2. Wait a Little Longer
Instead of calling your doctor as soon as his office opens, hold off for a couple hours, says Mary Seyfried, a certified medical assistant and medical receptionist in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
If he starts seeing patients at 8 a.m., calling at 10 will allow the early-morning madness to pass, and you’ll receive more attention. The delay also gives receptionists time to check voice mail and learn of canceled visits—same-day appointments you can take, says Seyfried.