PCP wait times are 50% higher than 2014

The average patient waits 29.3 days to see a family medicine physician in large cities, according to a recent survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search firm.  

This wait has increased 50 percent since 2014, according to the report. Merritt Hawkins surveyed 10 to 20 offices in each of 15 large metropolitan areas to determine how soon a new patient could make an appointment for a non-emergent reason.

Of the 15 major metropolitan areas studied, average wait times for family medicine physicians exceed 14 days in 12 markets. Patients wait the longest to see a family medicine physician in Boston, clocking in 109 days on average. The shortest wait times are in Minneapolis, where patients wait an average of eight days to see a primary care physician, according to the report.

Patient wait times have increased most for PCPs, though they are longest still for dermatologists. The average wait time to see a dermatologist in major metropolitan cities is 32.3 days. Wait times have been increasing across the board. Across five specialties — cardiology, dermatology, orthopedic surgery, obstetrics/gynecology and family medicine — the average new patient physician appointment wait time has increased 30 percent between 2014 and 2017, according to the report.

The researchers hypothesized that the increase in wait times may be due to the growth in insurance coverage from the ACA, indicating health insurance alone does not guarantee access to care. They also noted their findings highlight another potential issue — the lack of providers in mid-sized markets and rural areas.

"If access to physicians in metropolitan areas with a large number of physicians per capita is limited, it may be reasonable to infer that physician access could be more problematic in areas with fewer physicians per capita," the report reads.

 

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