What is your lost time worth?

I’ve emerged from 4 months of debilitating illness.  Searching for a diagnosis (tests, procedures, office appointments) and pursuing treatment plans was time consuming and depressing.  Naturally, I became less productive as I became increasingly worn out.   Then I got lucky and was cured by surgery that removed a massive but benign renal cyst.  After all of these years of the chronic stuff, a cure seems magical.  

But looking back, I feel frustrated, not just by how this impacted my ability to live my life.  But all the hours and days that  were wasted.  When your health and healthcare consumes your waking hours, it’s a time suck.  But what makes my blood boil is the numbing hours spent waiting to see the doctor who is running 30 minutes (or hours) behind or the test/procedure that’s running late.  

If I was one of the lucky who has 2 doctor appointments a year, maybe I’d feel annoyed when the doctor is 30 minutes or an hour late for our 20 minute appointment.  But most likely I wouldn’t say anything for fear of antagonizing and I’d probably just forget about it  — until the next time it happens.   At that point, either I’d change providers (if I could) or maybe make a nasty comment.  But as this study shows, It Costs You $43  Every Time You Wait For the Doctor.” ,  your wait can also add up to dollars lost.  According to one of the lead researchers, “Discussions of health care costs usually focus on money paid to doctors and hospitals.  Very rarely or almost never do we say, ‘Hey, how much time is this taking on [the] patient’s side?’ ” 

Consider what this means when you live with chronically difficult health and you’re likely to have multiple appointments a month — or even in a week — as many of my clients do.  A client who is preparing for a major operation has actually calculated that over the past two months in getting ready for the surgery, she has devoted a total of 6 full days in filling out forms and attending appointments and tests.  Here’s the kicker.  She estimates that she’s spent at least another  12 hours waiting for doctors and tests that ran late.  And she hasn’t had the operation yet!  As a tenured professor, she used her sabbatical year to carve out the time to get this done.  How lucky is she to have this option?  

Few have this kind of opportunity or flexibility.    Too many people choose or are forced to leave their jobs  because they can’t manage their health, their healthcare appointments and their job.  Lost productivity is not a good thing.

Those of us who need frequent health care are shouldering a big burden and unnecessary loss.   And it adds up to a lot more than $43 per visit.


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