Survey shows patients in many cities wait weeks for appointments

February 24, 2014

For primary care physicians, the average appointment wait time was 19.5 days across metropolitan areas.

How long do patients wait to see their physician?

That depends on where they live and what kind of doctor they want to see. Merritt Hawkins’ 2014 survey of physician appointment wait times breaks down wait times for five specialties in 15 metropolitan markets. The shortest wait? One day to see a family physician in Dallas. The longest? 256 days to see a dermatologist in Minneapolis.

For primary care physicians, the average appointment wait time was 19.5 days across the metropolitan areas. That’s less than the 20.3 days in 2009, the last time the survey was completed.

The longest average wait was in Boston, at 66 days, and the shortest was in Dallas, at five days.
Merritt Hawkins, a healthcare consulting firm, said in its report that while more patients have access to insurance now because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that is not the same thing as having access to a physician.

“As millions of the previously uninsured obtain healthcare coverage through the ACA, ways will need to be found to ensure access to physicians, through increases in the number of medical residency positions available nationwide, through the use of innovative staffing models that redistribute some of the work previously handled by physicians to other clinicians, through equitable payments to physicians, through the use of online and mobile technology, and through other methods,” the report reads.

The report also explores access to Medicare and Medicaid. While Medicare access was good across most markets, with 77% of physicians accepting Medicare patients, only 50.6% of physicians surveyed said they accept Medicaid. That’s down from 65% in 2009.

“Medicaid does not guarantee access to physicians in many cases,” the report says.