Specialists with the shortest in-office wait times in 2016

The average time a patient waits from walking in the door of their physician's office to being seen by the physician has declined nationally by 1 minute and 16 seconds over the past year, according to healthcare database company Vitals.

The national average is currently 18 minutes and 35 seconds. The shorter year-over-year wait times continue a trend of declining wait times, which have dropped 13 percent since Vitals first began to report the data in 2009. Data is based on patient-reported wait times from 2016.

With more consumers paying out of pocket for healthcare services, wait times are crucial to patient satisfaction and often to physician ratings, according to Vitals. The company found physicians with the highest ratings on its site — five stars — had average wait times of 12 minutes and 33 seconds, compared to physicians with just one star who had an average wait time of 33 minutes and 4 seconds.

"Wait time alone is probably not the cause of the bad rating," Mitch Rothschild, founder and chairman of Vitals, said in a statement. "More likely, a doctor who can't watch the clock may not be effectively managing other parts of the practice that impact the patient experience."

The data suggests some more difficult-to-manage specialties may have longer wait times. For example, emergency physicians — who have the toughest schedules to predict — had the longest wait times of any specialty, averaging 23 minutes and 16 seconds. Meanwhile, dentists had the shortest average wait times.

Here are the five specialties with the shortest average reported wait times in 2016, as presented by Vitals.

General dentistry — 8 minutes, 27 seconds
Child psychology — 10 minutes, 59 seconds
Radiation oncology — 10 minutes, 59 seconds
Plastic surgery — 12 minutes, 28 seconds
Chiropractic medicine — 12 minutes, 35 seconds

 

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