Americans wait an average 24 days to get a new patient appointment

Dive Brief:

  • Americans wait on average 24.1 days to get a new patient appointment in 15 major metropolitan areas, up 30% from 2014, according to a new Merritt Hawkins survey.
  • Boston has the longest wait times, averaging 52.4 days, while Dallas had the shortest, at 14.8 days.
  • “Physician appointment times are the longest they have been since we began conducting the survey,” said Merritt Hawkins President Mark Smith, adding the increase underscores the ongoing physician shortage in U.S.

Dive Insight:

Average wait times for physician visits in other major cities include 37 days in Philadelphia, 28 in Portland, 28 in Seattle, 27 in Denver and 24 in Los Angeles.

The survey tracked average new patient appointment wait times in five specialty areas: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery and family medicine.

The study also looks at mid-sized cities, where wait times for new physician visits average 32 days — 32.8% longer than for major metropolitan areas. Amid mid-size markets, Yakima, WA, had the longest waits, at 48.8 days. At the other end of the spectrum was Billings, MT, with an average wait time of 10.8 days.

Wait times for medical specialists averaged 24.1 days in major markets, up from 18.5 days in 2014. Medicare acceptance for specialists averaged 84.5%. At the high end were Boston and Minneapolis with 100%. Houston came in last, at 69%.

While wait times are long in the U.S., they haven’t increased under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study published online in JAMA on Monday. What’s driving delays and rushed office visits is inefficiency, the study’s authors say.

“Many physicians control their schedules, often resulting in ineffective office scheduling and high rates of patient no-shows,” write Emily Gudbranson and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. They recommend doctors adopt open-access scheduling, leaving up to half of their appointment slots for same-day or walk-in patients. Wait times could also be reduced by conducting more follow-ups via virtual medicine, they say.

Filed Under: Practice Management
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