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HOUSE Calls: Questions on Wait Times & Sun Screen

March 27, 2012 by Rose Hoban in Featured, HOUSE Calls

This week we respond to questions about wait times at the doctor’s office and sun screen for African Americans.

Dear HOUSE Calls,   
House calls logoWhy are wait times so long at the doctor’s office?

Oh boy, we’ll try to keep this brief. This is a very complicated issue. And when we give you some reasons, you should understand that they are not excuses, and we are always striving to do better in this regard. At UNC Family Medicine we have made great progress with wait time over the last several years.

Your appointment at the doctor’s office is usually booked for 15 to 20 minutes. Some offices try to accommodate patients that are a little late (maybe 10-20 minutes would be typical). Patients are commonly late and this has a cumulative or stacking effect on the clinic session. Also, we try to keep our visits focused, but many patients have a lot of issues that they want to talk about. Sometimes the doctor will be selective, but this can be frustrating to the patient. We will always help with a crisis.

It is common in our clinic to have one or more patients scheduled during a half day with a heart attack, severe depression, severe high blood sugar, suspected labor, or trouble breathing. These sorts of visits are hard to predict and incredibly time consuming, not to mention important!

Also we try to keep our schedules pretty full because about 10-15% of our patients don’t show up for their appointments. Some practices try to mitigate this problem by charging the full fee for missed appointments or discharging repeat offenders from the practice. We want to balance the demands of efficiency with the financial realities of running a practice, and the needs of individual patients.

However, we can do better. We are trying to learn what we can from other industries (airlines, banks, etc.) and feel like there is still a lot of room to do better. We have also started a patient advisory board and continue to hear from patients how to best balance these competing demands.

Dear HOUSE Calls,    
I was wondering what are the best sunscreens for African Americans?  

This is a great question. The short answer is that African Americans and others with darker skin do not need special sunscreens. But it is important to consider because darker skin can burn with prolonged sun exposure and can develop skin cancer.

Just like anybody else, you should choose the sun screen that feels best for your skin type.  Dry skin? Maybe try a cream.  Oily skin? Maybe try a spray or gel. The important thing is that you use the products that protect against UVA and UVB rays.

HOUSE Calls is a weekly column by Dr. Cristy Page, Dr. Adam Zolotor, and Dr. Adam Goldstein on behalf of YOUR HEALTH™ and the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

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About HOUSE Calls
Physicians from the UNC Department of Family Medicine’s YOUR HEALTH™ media bring you weekly information in response to your questions about health and medicine. Send us your questions or comments to

The HOUSE Calls staff:

Cristy Page Headshot Dr Cristy Page is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. A former Morehead scholar, Dr. Page completed degrees in Medicine, Public Health and Family Medicine at UNC. Dr. Page practices full scope family medicine including obstetrics, and she is recognized for important innovations in maternal health, preventive medicine and group well-child care.

Adam Goldstein Headshot Dr. Adam Goldstein is a Professor of Family Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. As a leading U.S. expert in primary care, Dr. Goldstein has a 20-year history in clinical practice, teaching, and research. He has published over 150 articles, essays, book chapters, and books.

Adam Zolotor Headshot Dr. Adam Zolotor is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.  Dr. Zolotor Completed his training at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina.  He has been in practice for 10 years and and is a nationaly recognized expert in child abuse and child injury prevention.  He directs the Department of Family Medicine maternal and child health services. He is the author of more than 50 articles and book chapters.

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