News & Commentary

Doc appointment wait times on the rise

It takes 30% longer to get a new patient visit for primary care physicians and some specialists in 15 major metropolitan areas than it did in 2014, according to a Merritt Hawkins survey.The survey measured new patient appointment wait times in five medical specialties: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery, and family medicine. Data for this year were collected from 1,414 doctor offices in 15 major metro areas. It now takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 of the largest cities in the U.S. That’s up from 18.5 days in 2014, 20.5 days in 2009, and 21 days in 2004, the previous years when the survey was conducted.

The average physician appointment wait time was longest in Boston (52 days) and shortest in Dallas (15 days). The long waits in Boston might be the result of higher-than-usual demand for medical services because nearly 100% of the population has insurance coverage. Boston is also a unique market because of a relatively high proportion of physicians involved in teaching, research, and other non-clinical roles, noted Merritt Hawkins spokesman Phil Miller in an email to Managed Care. “Dallas has a lot of employed people,” Miller wrote, “and it’s possible that physicians are focusing on these patients and do not have to see poorer paying patients, which reduces wait times. But we didn’t conduct research into the causes of wait times, so these are educated guesses.”

Average appointment wait times by specialty

Number of days

Average appointment wait times for major market cities

Number of days

Source: Merritt Hawkins, “2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare Acceptance Rates,” March 20, 2017

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