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14 Reasons One Doctor Has Stopped Eating Tilapia and Two More Question All Kinds of Fish

14 Reasons One Doctor Has Stopped Eating Tilapia and Two More Question All Kinds of Fish


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Three top doctors call into question whether we should be eating tilapia and other seafood

14 Reasons One Doctor Has Stopped Eating Tilapia and Two More Question All Kinds of Fish

There’s something fishy happening in the world of seafood, and we’re not quite sure how to handle it. While health concerns with foods as seemingly simple as a can of tuna fish have been raised by some, others are doing their best to remedy this and bring purity back to the seafood industry. Whether it’s tuna fish, salmon, or tilapia, though, it’s important that the entire food industry takes a step back and reassess the way fish are raised, processed, and served.

“Health experts are continually berating us to eat more fish," says Dr. Michael S. Fenster. But he warns us that "to simply bludgeon us over the head like a harp seal with the mandate to consume more fish without any regard to the type, character, and quality of our choosing is not only a dereliction of dietary duty, but downright dangerous."

Click ahead to see 14 Reasons One Doctor Has Stopped Eating Tilapia and Two More Question All Kinds of Fish.

Antibiotics and Pesticides

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“If you crowd your fish into ponds [that contain] oozing heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins from industrial effluent, it is not hard to imagine that a few of the fish might become a tad susceptible to infection,” says Dr. Fenster. “A recent study sampled imported seafood and found imported tilapia treated with oxytetracycline, and a farmed salmon marketed as antibiotic free was actually found to contain traces of virginiamycin [both are antibiotics]. Other studies have found tilapia from China treated with malachite green [a dyestuff and antimicrobial] and nitrofurans [another antibiotic]. While the levels found were below the regulatory limits, studies have shown that such usage can promote the development of bacterial antibiotic resistance. Humanely and naturally raised products taste better and are, quite simply, better for you.”

DDT and Other Contaminants

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“Some tilapia imported from China has shown significant concentrations of the pesticide DDT and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can be associated with industrial pollution,” according to Dr. “Over 85 percent of all US seafood is imported, but the FDA checks just 2 percent for contaminants which include drug residues, microbes, and heavy metals. This is in contradistinction to Europe (20 to 50 percent), Japan (18 percent), and Canada (15 percent). And when the FDA does examine for drugs, for example, they currently search for only 13 drugs. Europe currently tests for 34 drugs. The result was that in 2009, 0.1 percent of all imported seafood was inspected for drug residues.”

Fishy Factors That are Often Out of Reach

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GMOs in Farmed Tilapia

“If the toxic environment, overcrowding, steroids, and drugs weren’t enough,” says Dr. Fenster, consider the fact that tilapia “can’t even get a real meal. Because tilapia naturally consume algae, aquatic plants, aquatic insects, and the like, they are readily adaptable to an inexpensive diet. This diet is usually predominantly made from genetically modified corn and soy.”

It’s All in the Name

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“Shakespeare observed that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Which is, of course, completely true,” says Dr. “It would, however, be a lot less popular at the florist if that other name happened to be ‘rotting carcass stink blossom.’ Tilapia, besides sounding like some horrible infectious tropical disease, essentially just means fish. It is the Latinized form of the Tswana word tlhapi meaning ‘fish.’ I wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and order something simply labeled ‘cow’ from the menu, and I have no intention of doing the same for ‘fish’ no matter what kind of fancy foreign fiction they spin about it.”

Don’t order “cow.” Instead, get a prime cut of beef from one of America’s 50 Best Steakhouses.

Lack of Omega-3s in Farmed Tilapia

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“Many experts believe the beneficial, healthful effect associated with the consumption of fish and seafood has to do with the consumption of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are found in many varieties of such comestibles,” says Dr. “However, because the diet of many tilapia farmed in other countries is not their natural diet, they tend to be significantly lower in terms of omega-3 concentration than their wild relatives [and] tilapia is not a fish naturally high in omega-3 PUFAs to start. Because anti-inflammatory omega-3 PUFAs exist in a natural dynamic balance with the more inflammatory omega-6 PUFAs, when you have less of one you will have more of another. Higher levels of pro-inflammatory compounds like arachidonic acid and a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio make tilapia a less attractive choice for those looking to boost their intake of beneficial, anti-inflammatory omega-3 PUFAs.”

Lax Water Quality Standards

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When Dr. Fenster refers to muddy waters, he’s not referring to the blues legend McKinley Morganfield. “If tilapia were the piscine equivalent of the Hoochie Coochie Man, I would be having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unfortunately, it turns out that tilapia is one of several commercially farmed aquaculture species susceptible to unpalatable effects caused by the accumulation of geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol. These accumulate in the presence of blooms of certain cyanobacteria that are often present in the water when quality standards are lax. It transforms what looks like a delicious, light, delicately tender, and flaky fish fillet into a mouthful of swamp thing.”

Lead, Chromium, and Other Metals in Imported Tilapia

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“Certain areas of the world where tilapia is produced (read China) have been dealing with the issues of heavy-metal pollution in their ecosystems because of rapid industrialization and poor ecological oversight," Dr.Fenster points out. "The result is unacceptable levels of cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn). Studies looking at some Chinese tilapia exports found unacceptably high levels of lead and chromium in the fish. These fillets may be the only main course on earth you could properly pair with a glass of water from Flint, Michigan.”

Methyl Testosterone is Used to Stop Tilapia From Breeding

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“Tilapia may be the most politically incorrect fish you can put on your plate,” says Dr. “Tilapia may be known within aquaculture circles as ‘the aquatic chicken,’ but they breed like freaking rabbits. Which means if you are growing a group of tilapia in a pond and you have a mix of boys and girls as they get older, what you end up with is a lot of small fish of varying ages. This is not good for the McFillet business, where you need fewer but larger and more homogeneous schools. The solution? Treat the fish with steroids, [specifically] a form of testosterone known as methyl testosterone, which forces all the fish to become phenotypically male.”

Most Tilapia Doesn’t Come From America

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“At the risk of sounding Trumpian,” says Dr. Fenster, “China is killing us in trade. And they are executing these machinations for world domination through the export of tilapia. With over 95 percent of the tilapia consumed in the United States being imported, and almost 75 percent of it coming from China, the odds are that unless you can accurately and precisely source your tilapia, China is exactly where it originated. Add to the fact that this fish is popularly added to processed fish food items including patties, fingers, and a plethora of other unknowable deep-fried depth charges, and it is easy to see why it is critically important to source, like everything else you eat, your fish.”

Seafood Doesn’t Yet Have an Organic Labelling Protocol

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Dr. Fenster reminds us that “if you are looking for labels to help you determine if the fish were raised on a diet of GMO corn and soy, forget it. The USDA does not currently have any guidelines or mechanisms in place to label seafood as organic. It is simply differentiated by whether it is farmed or wild caught.”

Sourcing Issues Can Lead to Safety Concerns

“Tilapia is currently the world’s most popular farmed fish after carp," according to Dr. "Depending on your source, it’s the third or fourth most commonly consumed type of seafood or fish in the United States. While the country of origin labeling (COOL) was repealed for meat and poultry in the summer of 2015, it is still enforced for fish and seafood. While it may be difficult to find them, there are reliable producers in Central and South America. Even more difficult may be to find the producers in the United States, but many of these adhere to the highest standards of aquaculture and produce a product worth perusing. If you can verify it, a wholesome, naturally and humanely raised delicate, mild white fish like tilapia is arguably worth serious consideration as an addition to your plate. After all, if it was good enough for St. Peter, it should be good enough for me. I just don’t want my eating it to be the reason I meet him.”

Natural Fish Diets: An Ocean of Potentially Harmful Possibilities

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Susan Blum, MD, founder and director of the Blum Center for Health, co-owner of Organic Pharmer, author of The Immune System Recovery Program, has more general concerns about where fish come from and what each fish eats and is exposed to. “I believe the most important thing is to know where your food comes from AND to know what you are eating has [eaten]," she says. "You always have to go one step deeper; it could be [regarding] plants, animals, or fish. Given that fish come from a very large ocean, I know the least information about fish, where it came from, and what it ate. Even if a fish is wild caught, you don’t know where the fish has been or what it’s been exposed to.”

The FDA’s Approval of GMO Salmon

Jennie Ann Freiman, MD, creator of the wellness blog OObroo Tips, also fears that fish provide more risks than benefits. She’s especially wary of a recent approval of GMO salmon by the FDA. “The benefits of eating fish do not outweigh the risks, in my opinion, which is why I gave up eating fish in 2011. Aquatic environments in the wild are polluted with agricultural and industrial toxins, municipal waste, and radioactive material. Modern aquaculture produces fish that have been treated with antibiotics, pesticides, and anti-fouling paints, and the actual production facilities are environmentally hazardous. To make matters worse, late in 2015, the FDA approved GMO salmon and is not requiring labeling to advise consumers who might want to avoid Frankenfood.”


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.


16 Secrets Every Doctor's Receptionist Knows

The average wait time to see a physician in 15 major US cities is 18.5 days. Need a GP in Boston? That'll be 66 days (on average). If you're hunting for a dermatologist in Philadelphia, try 49 days.

Accessing doctors is just one of the maddening things about medical care, but the secret to navigating it all is right there in the waiting room with you: the receptionist. As the office gatekeepers, they know all the tricks. so we asked them to spill. Here, their top tips for getting prompt, quality health care&mdashanywhere.

1. It is possible to get a same-day appointment. If you need a day-of visit, call between 10 and 11 AM, because that's when most offices will know about afternoon cancellations. Angelica Ruiz, who works with New York dermatologist Dina Strachan, advises against leaving a message. "I've had people forget to leave a call-back number or I can't understand what they're saying, so always try to get ahold of somebody," she says. And if it's raining or snowing outside, chances are another patient didn't want to face the bad weather, leaving an open time slot for you to snatch up.

Adds Julie Ullman, a receptionist at the Scottsdale, AZ, office of obstetrician-gynecologist Gino Tutera, "If your last-minute request is due to an urgent matter, make that clear to the receptionist." And one rule reigns over all others: Be flexible. If the office can squeeze you in, take whatever time they can give you.

2. Trust the nurses. What you think is a question only a doctor can answer may actually be something a nurse is qualified to handle. But rest assured, "if it's something more involved, the nurse will put the phone in the doctor's hands," says Lisa Ogletree, a receptionist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.

3. Schedule appointments for the early morning or right after lunch. That's when docs are most likely to be on time, so you'll wait less. If these slots don't fit your schedule, make a Wednesday appointment. That's the slowest day in most offices.

4. Give a deadline. If you can't avoid busy office times, tell the receptionist when you call that you need to leave by a certain time. "I'll know not to book you next to a procedure or an annual visit, which takes longer," says Ogletree.

5. Save your annual checkup for late spring or summer. From May through August, most people are relatively healthy and on vacation, so doctors' offices of all kinds are quieter. September is good, too, because it's back-to-school time.

6. Stay away in December. Cold and flu season makes winter the busiest time, with December being especially nuts. "People want to use up their insurance benefits or flexible spending accounts before year's end," explains Robin Omeltschenko, director of operations at Cincinnati's Total Dentistry.

7. Call to check on things. If you have a late-day appointment, call the office an hour ahead of time to see if the doctor is on schedule. If not, ask when to show up.

8. Request any paperwork ahead of time. If you're a new patient and you can't arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment, ask the office to send the required forms beforehand. (Some offices also make them available online or via e-mail.)

9. Double-check everything. To avoid screwups that'll cause delays or force a return trip, check with the office the day before your appointment to be sure all necessary lab and test results are in. Call your insurance provider to double-check coverage and co-pay. And, of course, don't forget your insurance card and ID.

10. You can avoid the office entirely by asking the receptionist this: Is the doctor open to receiving e-mails and text messages? Does the doctor set aside any time for non-emergency phone conversations with patients? If so, you're in!

11. Book your own appointment. ZocDoc.com could make receptionists obsolete. Search the free online database by city and specialty to find ratings and availability. Refine your search by doctor gender, reason for visit, and accepted insurance. Then book with just a few clicks. Couldn't be easier&mdashbut there's also no way to sweet-talk the computer.

12. Choose your day wisely. Avoid appointments on Mondays and Fridays they're the busiest days in most offices.

13. Don't come with a long list of ailments. Some receptionists refer to a patient's complaints as a "bucket list of all the things they've been saving up to ask the doctor," says Rachel Wilcox, a receptionist for Randolph Schnitman, MD, in Beverly Hills, CA. Patients may wait to see the doctor because one small ailment doesn't seem that important or they don't want to pay for a visit. In reality, arriving with too many things to discuss will detract from your appointment. "If you have 10 different items, the doctor won't have enough time to focus on each one," says Wilcox. Try to limit each visit to two issues.

14. Don't be late. Tardy or unprepared patients are the main reasons doctors fall behind. "Showing up on time is hugely important because you're able to get your full consultation without being rushed," says Rachel Mazza, a receptionist for Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York. That said, receptionists understand that stuff happens&mdashand they say the best thing you can do is get in touch. "Whether you're canceling or running late, a phone call helps a lot so we can reshuffle in advance," Ruiz says. If you absolutely can't avoid being late, know that a patient who arrives after you for a later appointment&mdashbut is on time&mdashwill likely be seen first.

15. Check your attitude at the door. If there's one thing many patients lack, it's, well, patience. Receptionists know you're busy and don't want to wait, but they'd appreciate you keeping the complaints to yourself. "We try our best to give service with a smile, and when patients are rude it makes our jobs harder," says Ruiz. As Wilcox puts it: "I don't mind if patients are late, but it really bothers me when they get pushy and want to be seen right away."

16. Ditch the doctor if he's chronically late.
Chances are good you'll always have to wait a few minutes before the doctor is ready to see you. But if it happens every single time you visit, you may want to look elsewhere. "If you get in early and you're still waiting 30 minutes or an hour to be seen, then I'd start asking some questions," Wilcox says.



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