Online medical care scheduling service company Zocdoc released new research on physician appointment wait times that found the average wait time for new patients on Zocdoc was 7.6 days in Q2 compared to the national 24.1-day average.
The research also found 11% of new patient appointments booked on the same calendar day. Nearly 40% booked within the next three calendar days.
Researchers discovered that 79% of searches found at least one available time slot in the next three days.
Zocdoc, which offers a program that allows patients to see doctors’ open appointment times and book online, reviews its appointment scheduling following the Merritt Hawkins 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times, which was released in March. Zocdoc conducted the research to see if its numbers were better than the national average. The results show that technology can play a role in reducing physician appointment wait times.
The Merritt Hawkins report raised eyebrows in March. The report found the average wait time for a physician appointment in 15 different large markets was 24.1 days. That was a 30% increase over the 2014 average. Physician appointment times were the longest since Merritt Hawkins started conducting the survey. Boston had the longest wait times, averaging 52.4 days. By contrast, Zocdoc said its average Boston area appointment wait time was 13.6 days.
You might think the longer physician appointment wait times are because of the Affordable Care Act adding 20 million insured people. However, a JAMA report published in May said inefficiency is actually to blame.
“Many physicians control their schedules, often resulting in ineffective office scheduling and high rates of patient no-shows,” wrote study author Emily Gudbranson and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine at the time.
Instead, the study authors suggested physicians use open access scheduling to allow half of appointment slots for same-day or walk-in patients. Many experts suggest open access scheduling as one way to engage patients and make physicians more accepting.
David Friend, chief transformation at BDO Consulting, recently told Healthcare Dive, “The whole concept of how we schedule time is being rethought. A lot of things we used to believe were true, like the doctor being fully booked and the operating room being fully booked, that that was the most efficient way to use them, when you really study it, you find it’s not true.”