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The doctor will see you... soon

Tick-tock, tick-tock... sigh.

We’ve all been there – waiting in the doctor’s waiting room.

Sometimes it seems that time slows down in that room.

But it could be worse.

According to, a consumer marketplace for healthcare information, in 2012, Minnesotans had the third shortest doctor wait time of all 50 states – 17 minutes, 8 seconds was the average time that Minnesotans waited to see the doctor.

Wisconsin and Alaska came in with the shortest wait times – just under 17 minutes.

Mississippi was listed with the longest wait in the doctor’s office waiting room – 24 minutes, 25 seconds, on average.

LOCAL REACTION The state’s average wait time is about 17 minutes and locally, clinics are continually working to improve wait times.

Alexandria Clinic’s Director of Community Relations and Development Eddie Reif said, “Our first and foremost goal is to make sure that patients have the best care possible. It is the goal of all of our staff and providers to not only keep on schedule for their days but also to allow patients adequate time with their provider to go over any questions or concerns they might have.”

When a patient calls in to schedule an appointment, Alexandria Clinic staff is trained to ask a series of questions to determine the potential length of their visit with the providers and nurses.

Reif noted, “The reason this is done is to allow our scheduling staff to schedule appointments in the most efficient succession as possible, cutting down on the wait time for patients to see their provider. Since not all visits are going to be the same length of time, we allow more time for more complex medical issues, keeping in mind that we want to ensure each patient is given the opportunity to spend enough time with their provider.”

There are emergent situations that can happen that cause providers to run late or have to leave the clinic for the hospital, Reif said. “We do our best to keep patients informed when this happens and give them the option to reschedule or see another provider if one is available.”

At Sanford Health, Darren Huber, communications director, noted, “There are many different factors that impact patient wait time and every clinic is different, but the goal is for patients to see a care provider within 15 minutes of their scheduled appointment time. Patient satisfaction and specifically wait times are high on our list. We are currently looking at various strategies in the clinic to improve wait time and maximize physician and staff efficiencies.”

Including reviewing how patients are scheduled, Huber said.

Sanford Health is finding the right mix of clinic appointments in each hour to ensure they stay on schedule, according to Huber. For example, appointments with new patients are spread throughout the day allowing more time since these appointments can be longer. 

Within the Sanford Health network, some clinics are standardizing the length of appointment times or booking follow up appointments in the exam room.

“All these steps are designed to help reduce wait times, improve patient satisfaction while reducing congestion at check-in and in the lobby,” Huber said. “Each clinic is finding what works best for them.” aggregated patient reviews and rankings of doctors and hospitals across the U.S. for its fourth annual Physician Wait Time Report.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133