New patients wait an average of 2.7 weeks to be seen: 5 things to know

The amount of time a new patient waits to be seen after requesting an appointment can vary significantly by medical specialty, with new patients averaging 2.7 weeks before being seen, according to athenahealth research.

Athenahealth researchers gathered data from 4.2 million first appointments scheduled in 2016 with 13,000 providers on the athenahealth network. New patients were classified as those who had not visited the practice in at least three years.

Here are five findings from the report.

1. Across providers, which included primary care physicians, orthopedists, pediatricians, cardiologists and OB-GYN physicians, only 10 percent of new patients were seen the same day. Sixty percent of new patients were scheduled within two weeks and 20 percent waited over four weeks for their first appointment.

2. In the group of providers listed above, orthopedic patients were seen the fastest, with an average time of 13 days before being seen.

3. The researchers found wait times for first appointments are likely to be longer for specialties that are in demand, which included otolaryngology, urology, nephrology, pulmonary, gastroenterology, neurology and rheumatology. These specialties recorded 626,000 appointments for new patients in 2016 across 1,044 providers on the athenahealth network.

4. Patients requesting an appointment with a rheumatologist had to wait the longest among the group of specialties listed in point No. 3, with an average of 44 days before their first appointment. Neurology patients waited 32 days and gastroenterology patients waited 26 days.

5. Patients who waited over a month for their first appointment were twice as likely to cancel and never reschedule (32 percent) as patients who were scheduled for an appointment within a week (15 percent).

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