Imagine waking up with a sore throat, fever, body aches and the inability to get out of bed. You quickly go to your medicine cabinet and take whatever over-the-counter medicine you have, but then what? Most of us would probably think to call our doctor with the expectation that he or she would be able to see us in a timely fashion.
There’s nothing more frustrating than calling your doctor, only to find out that there are no appointments available. Often times, you won’t be able to control when you get a doctor’s appointment, but there are other alternatives to visiting your primary care physician. Here are four tips for what to do if you can’t get an appointment with your doctor:
Convey urgency and be thorough on the phone
When calling to make an appointment, make sure you emphasize the importance of why you’re calling. Be thorough in explaining what the problem is and why you feel that you need an appointment. If you emphasize the severity of your problem, you’ll often be able to get an appointment the same day or the day after. It can also be helpful to write down the history of the illness as well as your symptoms and send it to the doctor’s office by email or fax. When you call, explain that you’ve sent over a summary of your symptoms. Ask the receptionist to show it to a doctor in case they want to see you sooner rather than later.
Get a referral or see a different doctor
If you can’t get an appointment with your regular doctor, ask if you can see another doctor at the office who may have openings in their schedule. You may be able to get an appointment sooner if you’re not picky about the doctor you see. Additionally, you can check to see if your primary care doctor has an established relationship with a specialist. If they do, they may be able to help you get an appointment faster. A referring doctor typically provides more important and detailed medical information, and is better at justifying an earlier appointment. This can be especially helpful if a specialist is better suited for your problem.
Go to urgent care or a walk-in clinic
Anyone that’s visited the emergency room knows just how costly a visit can be. If you don’t have a true medical emergency, you may pay up to six times more than necessary for your visit. On the other hand, if you wait days or even weeks for an appointment, you risk your condition getting worse and requiring more complex treatment.
The next time you can’t get an appointment with your primary care physician or another doctor at the practice, consider visiting urgent care or a walk-in clinic. Urgent care bridges the gap between a situation that’s too urgent to wait for your primary care physician and the life-threatening situation that calls for a trip to the emergency room. These options are often far less expensive than the emergency room, and they can perform the same services in non-life threatening situations. You can also check to see if your doctor’s office has a walk-in clinic. These clinics are operated on a “first come, first served” basis, meaning you don’t need an appointment, but you may have a longer wait time. Both urgent care and walk-in clinics are beneficial for the times when you have an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
See a telehealth provider
Telehealth providers are increasing in popularity, and they’re a viable alternative to visiting a doctor in person. With a telehealth provider, you have access to U.S. board-certified physicians who can resolve many of your medical issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Appointments are conducted via phone or video chat from wherever you happen to be – home, work or even vacation. The average call back time for a telehealth provider is far less than a wait at your doctor’s office, and telehealth providers cost less than urgent care or ER visits for non-emergency medical care.
If you’re sick, the worst thing you can do is to wait it out and hope you’ll get better on your own. It’s important that you visit with a doctor to find out what’s wrong, but sometimes, visiting with your primary care physician is nearly impossible. Luckily, there are other options such as urgent care, walk-in clinics and telehealth providers.