Can the Waiting Room Make You Sick(er)?

Sponsored by: WellcomeMD

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Dr. Ingrid Liu

Wellcome MD Family Care, Oak Park

Avoid getting sick: stay away from sick people. But when you need to visit your doctor's office? A recent study in the Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology says well-child doctor appointments - like annual exams - result in more cases of flu-like symptoms within the next two weeks.

It's not just the kids who are suffering - family members have more risk, too. These findings don't mean you and your family should avoid visiting your doctor. But they are a wake-up call for prevention.

Americans wait about 24 minutes on average to be seen by their physicians. That's three times longer than the 8 minutes you'll spend with your provider, on average. On occasion, wait times can balloon to 2+ hours. That's a long time for patients, especially young ones, to avoid touching their mouths, noses and eyes.

Steps you can take:

Minimize waiting room time. At my Oak Park practice, we are able to provide a "no wait" schedule, because we limit the number of member-patients to far less than the typical office. You're usually waiting less than five minutes.

Technology can now allow you to interact with your doctor without setting foot in his or her office. At my practice, telemedicine lets me see and assess my patients via their smartphone, tablet or computer.

If you aren't ill and can choose, schedule doctor visits when fewer people are in that waiting room. Avoid getting your routine check-up during winter, when more people are sick, or try to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning.

Be proactive. If you or your child is sick, consider wearing face masks, often available at check-in at most practices. Help young kids to avoid shared toys and books. And of course, be diligent about hand washing.

Hold your doc accountable. Doctors and nurses are human, often hurried, and, just like everyone they can forget to wash their hands. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask them to do so before your exam.

And studies show that a doctor's stethoscope may actually contain more bacteria than a doctor's hands. It's not rude to ask politely for the surface to be wiped off with an alcohol pad prior to having it placed on your chest. It's smart.

So you may want to avoid the waiting room altogether and join a membership medicine practice. Our Oak Park members rarely wait. After check-in, they're brought back to a private room where I see them promptly.

Our on-time appointments and our smaller patient roster means no waiting. We offer our members no-rush office visits, often half an hour or longer as needed (not 8 minutes!) as well as quick access to the doctor via cell phone and email and a very thorough 2.5-hour annual physical exam.

If that is of interest for you and your loved ones, consider paying us a visit. I would be pleased to show you our offices and explain further. Call us at 708-455-2094 or visit us at WellcomeMD.com for more information.

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