The Waiting (Room) Game

The average time patients spend in the waiting room is 21 minutes, but that varies greatly by state. Typically, the healthiest states have the shortest wait time and the unhealthiest have the longest.

The waiting room at a physician’s office can be a place that patients learn to dread and it can affect how a patient feels about even visiting his or her doctor. More than that, there may actually be a connection between wait times at the doctor’s office and how unhealthy people are, according to a study by Vitals.

"While the actual encounter with a physician is a key factor in how a patient feels about their office visit, with today's busy lifestyles, wait times definitely matter in overall patient satisfaction," said Jeff Cutler, executive vice president of Vitals. "It's important for patients to be aware of how long they can expect to wait to receive the care they need, and increasingly, they can find this information on the Internet."

While the national average for wait times is 21 minutes, it varies state by state. The shortest wait time is in Wisconsin with only 15-minute, 43-second wait time. The rest of the top five — New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Minnesota all reported wait times between 15 and 17 minutes.

Some of the healthiest states as recently reported by the United Health Foundation are also the states that have the shortest wait times.

The reverse was true as well. Mississippi, the unhealthiest state for 10 years running, has the longest wait time at just over 25 minutes. The bottom five states are rounded out with Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas and Nevada, all with wait times between 23 and 25 minutes.

There’s even a large difference in wait times city by city. Minneapolis has the shortest average wait time at 16 minutes, 32 seconds. But El Paso, Texas has a wait time that is eight minutes over the national average at 29 minutes.

Primary care physicians also had the shortest wait time, six minutes less than wait times at a specialist’s office. Orthopedic surgeons, emergency physicians, addition medicine specialists, anesthesiologists and pain management specialists all had the longest wait times — between 22 and 24 minutes.

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