“We’ll Be Right With You” … How Much Longer Do I Have to Wait Before I Can Bill My Doctor for Wasted Time?


Have you ever had to wait a half hour…an hour…two hours…or more to see your doctor? Even though you had an appointment? Did you ask for an explanation and all you received in return was a half-hearted apology or nothing at all? And at the end of the day you still had to pay the same amount despite the wasted time that you could have spent going to work, spending time with your family, or otherwise enjoying your morning? Didn’t you wish you could do something about it? Well Elaine Farstad of Everett, Washington has found the solution. She billed her doctor.

Farstad, an IT specialist at Boeing, waited nearly two hours before being seen by her physician despite the fact that she had a scheduled appointment. Outraged by the time away from work that she had to miss, Farstad decided to take matters into her own hands — she figured out what her hourly wage working as an IT specialist was, then doubled that number. She then mailed the invoice to her doctor. Farstad was quoted as saying “If you waste my time, you’ve bought my time…It’s ludicrous — why would I wait for free?”

From a legal standpoint, one would think that Farstad would be out of luck. Under current case law, her physician doesn’t have to pay her back for the time she waited. According to the handful of cases on this issue, courts would not force Farstad’s doctor to pay her for the time she spent in his waiting room for a couple of reasons. First, she had chosen her physician herself; if she didn’t like how her doctor did things, she could just go to another one. Second, Farstad was at her doctor’s office out of her own free will; she didn’t have to stick around the waiting room for two hours. She could have rescheduled the appointment or found a different doctor.

However, Farstad’s doctor felt that her bill was justified. Within a few days, he had sent her a check for $100, the full amount that she had requested. According to Elizabeth Cohen, Senior Medical Correspondent for CNN, there is a growing trend in which tardy doctors have been giving their patients gifts or money to make up for the time they had to spend in the waiting room. For example, Dr. Timothy Malia, a primary care physician in New York, gives each of his patients $5 bill if he keeps them waiting more than fifteen minutes. Dr. Pamela Wible of Eugene, Oregon gives her patients a handmade soap or bottle of lotion if they wait more than ten minutes. This isn’t the first time Farstad has billed a late doctor. Over the years she has billed six doctors who were more than thirty minutes late. Half have paid.

Personally, I think that Farstad came up with a great idea. Although not all doctors may respond with monetary compensation like Farstad’s, billing your doctor may get your message across that he or she needs to work on the wait time in the office. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of mailing them an actual bill, there are other things that you can do to call your doctor’s tardiness to their attention, such as calling this blog to their attention the next time you’re in their office, blogging about your experience, or simply making a joke to your doctor about how you’re going to bill them the next time you have to wait over a half an hour.

If you would like more tips on how to reduce your waiting room time, check out tomorrow’s tip sheet: ” Can You Bill Your Doctor For Waiting Room Time? Tips To Reduce Your Time In The Waiting Room!”. If you would like to discuss this or any other blog posting with me, feel free to call me toll free at 1-866-889-6882. I look forward to hearing from you!