$89B: The annual price tag of healthcare wait, travel times

The time consumers spend waiting for or traveling to healthcare services costs $89 billion each year, according to an analysis from nonprofit research firm Altarum.

The analysis is based on 2006-17 data from the American Time Use Survey, and considers health services ranging from primary care and inpatient treatment to dental care and physical therapy. The $89 billion opportunity cost was calculated by quantifying and applying an individual's hourly wage as an estimate of the economic cost of time.

The study found every time consumers access a healthcare service, they spend 34 minutes on travel and 11 minutes waiting, on average. When compared to other professional services, like obtaining a license or permit, veterinary services, legal services and vehicle repair, healthcare wait times are more than double their average.

"The findings underscore the need for the health sector to focus greater attention on decreasing consumer travel and wait times to ease the burden on consumers," Corey Rhyan, senior analyst at Altarum, said in a news release. This could come in the form of improving technology and reducing paperwork, according to the report.

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