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Most stressful part of doctor's visit: The wait, says survey

Hurry up and wait is too often the prescription you're getting when you arrive at the doctor's office — and it could be making you feel much worse than before you went there.

A new survey finds that the vast majority of patients — 85 percent — say they have to wait anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time to actually see their doctor.

Waiting in doctor's office
Joos Mind | Getty Images

And that waiting period is often the worst part of the doctor's visit, according to patients.

A total of 63 percent of patients said that the most stressful thing about going to their MD was waiting to get looked at.

And even after they see the doctor, less than half of patients say they have a clear understanding of what they'll have to pay before they walk out the door.

The survey, conducted for the design and development firm Sequence, suggests there is a big technological gap between how patients interact with their doctor's offices, and how they manage the rest of their lives.

Jojo Roy, CEO of Sequence, said many people "have such high expectations" about efficiency and speed of service when they use digital devices to book taxis, vacations, restaurant reservations and order products online, but that in the realm of health care, the experience "still lags."

Roy said that among the 2,000 adults who participated in the survey, "the expectation is, sadly, pretty low" that they will get seen by a doctor at the time of their appointment, and with a minimum of paperwork.

"As patients and consumers, we somehow are willing to accept it's not as seamless, not as efficient ... as all of those other things are," Roy said.

Sequence presented the survey's results Tuesday at the HxR:Health Experience Refactored Conference in Boston.

Possibly the biggest difference between how people deal with doctors compared to other aspects of their lives is the way in which they book appointments.

Currently, about 80 percent of travelers, for example, use an online site to book and pay for a trip.

In contrast, 88 percent of doctors' appointments are scheduled by phone.

Roy said that getting health-care providers to have most of their scheduling done online could help reduce both wait times and the stress many patients associate with office visits.

More than 60 percent of the people surveyed for Sequence said they would prefer getting a text alert before they left home notifying them that they won't be seen on time. And more than half of the respondents said they wished there were screens in the doctors' waiting room offices showing estimated wait times.

Roy said that doing more scheduling online also could greatly speed up, or even eliminate, the time spent collecting information from patients once they get into the office. Instead of filling out forms in the waiting rooms, he said, patients could enter their information online at the time they're making their appointments.

About one-quarter of respondents said that they are asked, repeatedly, to provide or enter the same information on multiple forms or systems by their health providers, and that they always are asked to show their most current insurance information.

But only 34 percent of the respondents said they are confident that the person behind the front desk at their doctor's office knows who they are and the reason why they are visiting.

Roy said that doctors' offices that embrace the use of digital devices and platforms to have patients schedule appointments, enter health data and to increase transparency about what a visit will cost, could gain a competitive advantage over offices that continue to rely on the old ways of doing business.