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The best of times to see your doctor

Health care is a 24/7 business. After all, illnesses don’t choose when to strike. It can be any day of the week, and any time of the day. Whenever you have been unwell, am sure you have just made your way to the doctor’s and expected optimal attention regardless of the time or day of the week. For most cases all goes well, and your doctor seems to always function at their best regardless of the timing of your arrival.

But is it really true that doctors are always at their best? Is your eventual outcome related to when you see your doctor? At the face value, it may not seem any different if you see your doctor either early in the week, or towards end week. You may even deem it more practical to see your doctor towards the end of the day, when you are done with all other chores. May be you have done this all your life, and everything has always been ok.

But you would be wrong. The timing of encounters with your doctor matter a great deal. You see, the body is biologically wired to function in a certain way. After a good restful night, the body and mind are at their best in the mornings. Reaction times and cognition tend to slow down as the day advances, and are worst at night. And as the working week continues, there is the inevitable buildup of fatigue and exhaustion, with all faculties slowing down towards end week. Doctors are only human, hence they are not spared from this biological cycle.

Several studies have tried to look at whether your risk of medical harm, or death, is influenced by the timing of your encounters with doctors. The emergent bottom-line is that tired doctors are not good for you. The more hours your doctor puts in, the more the rise in rates of medical errors. That translates into missed diagnoses, wrong prescriptions, more complications, and more risks of serious medical harm or even death.

There you are. The best times for doctors’ appointments are therefore during daytime, preferably mornings or early afternoons. Early in the week is preferable, better to leave the weekends alone. Out of hours and nights are a big no. But what about if all these preferable appointments are all filled up? And what about emergencies? Well, any non-urgent cases can wait. Emergencies are a different matter.

Don’t suddenly be wary of doctors working late in the day, or on weekends. There are many safeguards in healthcare to ensure your safety. But keep your wits about you. If you select the best timings for your doctor’s encounters, you get them at their best. If you are always the last on the queue, at the end of the day, and on the last day of the week, you might come out worse one day.

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