Access to your doctor

February 28, 2011
Quality medicine
March 7, 2011

Just a quick post today asking you, the dear reader, for your opinion on how important accessibility is to a patient.  Despite being in practice only 16 months or so I find I am extremely busy.  I try to make it a point to squeeze in ill patients within a few days of finding out they are not doing well (obviously, truly unwell patients have to go to the ER; these are patients who are not that ill, but whose symptoms are getting worse for whatever reason).  I try to accommodate both new referrals, whom the GP is worried about, and my own patients who are having trouble.  I think this is good patient care and is a very useful service to provide.

I have noticed however many of my colleagues, both GPs and specialists, do not always manage to accommodate these ill patients.  Their offices are booked for months and the only recourse for unwell patients is to go to the ER.  While the ER docs do their best, they are overburdened and overcrowded, and I personally do not think this is a good option.  Also I think if you are a specialist in a field like cardiology, where patients can be quite ill, you have to be available – your expertise does not do the patient much good if they cannot reach you!

My solution has been to reserve a slot or two per day for the urgent patients.  If unused this costs me a 1/2 hour of billable time so this is not ideal from a business sense.  However I think it is good to be available, and if for some reason the slot goes unused, I get an early exit or a chance to catch up on paperwork etc.  Almost every day, the slot is booked.  I am very busy, if I stopped doing this I could see my family a bit more and have a bit “less stress.”  But again, I do think this is a good way to go and has helped a lot of people so far.  I also run an urgent clinic Monday mornings.

I am curious what you think – do you think access to your doctors, when you are ill, is important for you?  Should this be different for GPs vs specialists?  Any of you have any ideas about scheduling to be responsive to patient needs but keep your office days full?  Have you had any bad experiences?  Let me know.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    I think it is very important that people feel their Doctor is available to them when needed. I work in the medical field and have had patients say they've had to wait weeks to see their GP – which I find amazing. No wonder walk-in clinics seem to be so busy. While patients expect to wait longer to see a Specialist it can be more than just stressful when you are unwell and worried. I think your schedule is great – both for the patient and their GP to know your expertise is available when needed. Thank you.

  2. Appreciate the comment Elizabeth. It would seem to be a no-brainer that access is important but I was just wondering. There are actually several schemes you can use to guesstimate how many urgent patients you might have to see and forecast accordingly. Mine is certainly not perfect but (like everything else) is a work in progress.

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