Survey: Hospital Wait Times Longer than Ever

Survey: Hospital Wait Times Longer than Ever

In March 2017, the physician employment specialists at Merritt Hawkins released data from a nationwide hospital survey of more than 1,400 practices on the topic of patient wait times.

The results? "Not encouraging,” writes Jeff Jacoby in a Boston Globe editorial. “New patients are waiting longer than ever to get an appointment with a doctor.”

Key findings from the survey — entitled "2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates" — also include:

  • The average patient/physician appointment wait time across is 24.1 days, “up 30% from 2014,” the authors note.
  • The average waiting time for new patient/physician appointments in 15 mid-sized markets is 32 days, “32.8% higher than the average for large metro markets.” (29 days, up 50% since 2014)
  • The average wait time to see a family medicine physician in large markets “ranges from a high of 109 days in Boston to a low of 8 days in Minneapolis.
  • In mid-sized markets, the average waiting time for patients to see family medicine physicians is 56.3 days, ranging “from a high of 122 days in Albany, New York to a low of seven days in Billings, Montana.”

“Physician appointment wait times are the longest they have been since we began conducting the survey,” Merritt Hawkins president Mark Smith said in a statement. “Growing physician appointment wait times are significant indicator that the nation is experiencing a shortage of physicians.”

Finding as it does that the new average patient wait time in the United States now stands at 24.1 days — 30 percent more than it was in just 2014! — the survey has been received with real dismay in some places. The media in Boston are among those taking note; with the region ranking as the major U.S. city with the longest average new patient wait times in the U.S., at a whopping 52.4 days, it's not difficult to see why.

And that’s just the average across all specialties, as Jacoby noted. “To be seen specifically by a physician who practices family medicine, the wait in Boston for a new patient is now 109 days — nearly one-third of a year!”

Hospital Survey also Reveals Medicare/Medicaid Acceptance Rates

The report compares brand-new data from a hospital survey conducted in January and February of 2017 to the findings of a series of others surveys conducted in 2014, 2009 and 2004.

The 2017 survey was conducted via physically calling healthcare facilities to schedule an appointment in “15 large metropolitan markets,” the report authors explain. “For the first time, the survey also includes average times new patients must wait to see a physician in 15 mid-sized metropolitan markets of between 88,000 and 143,000 people.”

The report also includes findings on the acceptance rates of Medicare and Medicare, finding that:

  • Average rates of physician Medicare acceptance: 85% in large metro markets, 81% in mid-sized markets
  • Average rates of physician Medicaid acceptance: 53% in major metro markets, 60% in mid-sized markets

The actual report goes into far more detail on these findings, presenting a comprehensive breakdown of year-by-year data for each of the surveyed metropolitan areas. Revealing as it does that the American healthcare market continues to endure high-level difficulties, the report can be of use to industry and facility leaders as well as healthcare professionals themselves in better understanding the patient's journey.

“More physicians will need to be trained, access to other types of providers expanded, and emerging technologies employed to ensure that health care delayed does not become health care denied,” Smith's statement concludes.

Like Staff Care, Merritt Hawkins is a company of AMN Healthcare. You can access the original survey here.

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