Boston Has Longest Wait Times for Physician Appointments Out of 15 Metro Areas

A survey from Merritt Hawkins found it takes more than 45 days, on average, to schedule an appointment with a physician in the Boston area.

Merritt Hawkins took survey of 1,399 medical offices and tracked the average time it took to schedule an appointment in 15 large metropolitan areas. The survey reports average physician appointment wait times for five different medical specialties: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery and family practice.

The metro areas surveyed were: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Out of the 15 metro markets, Boston had the longest average appointment wait times. It took 72 days to see a dermatologist, 66 days to see a family physician, 46 days to see an OB/GYN, 27 days to see a cardiologist and 16 days to see an orthopedic surgeon.  On average, it takes more than 45 days to schedule a doctor appointment in the Boston area, according to the survey results.

In each of the three years Merritt Hawkins has released the survey (2004, 2009 and 2014), Boston has averaged the longest physician appointment wait times among the 15 cities.

Primary care wait times are significant, as lengthier waits may mean more patients will visit retail clinics or hospital emergency departments for care. Dallas had the shortest average wait times to see a family physician (five days) while Boston had the longest, at 66 days. The next longest wait time behind Boston for a family physician appointment was New York City, with 26 days.

Other average physician appointment wait times tracked by the survey include 28 days to see a cardiologist in Denver, 49 days to see a dermatologist in Philadelphia, 35 days to see an OB/GYN in Portland, 18 days to see an orthopedic surgeon in San Diego and 26 days to see a family physician in New York City.  

Physician appointment wait times varied from as little as one day to more than eight months, with an overall average in all metro areas and all specialties of about 19 days, according to the survey.

The survey also tracked how many physician practices accept Medicaid as a form of payment in the 15 metro markets. Many physicians are not accepting Medicaid because it often pays less than what it costs physicians to provide care. Boston had the highest rate of Medicaid acceptance tracked in the survey (73 percent) while Dallas had the lowest (23 percent). The overall average rate of Medicaid acceptance for all five specialties in all 15 markets was 45.7 percent.

"Finding a physician who can see you today, or three weeks from today, can be a challenge, even in urban areas where there is a high ratio of physicians per population," Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins, said in the release. "The demand for doctors is simply outstripping the supply."

More Articles on Access to Care:

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Physician Assistants Increase Access to Primary Care, Survey Shows
6 Key Statistics on Medicare Beneficiaries' Access to Physicians

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