Why Boston patients have longer appointment wait times

Boston residents often struggle to schedule medical appointments, even though the city has one of the highest per-capita rates of physicians and houses some of the country's best hospitals, Boston Magazine reports.

Four things to know:

1. A new patient in Boston can expect to wait more than 52 days before seeing a physician, according to a 2017 Merritt Hawkins study cited by Boston Magazine. Boston's wait times are longer than those in 14 other major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

2. "Boston should have it right, and we don't," said Ateev Mehrotra, MD, an associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Boston-based Harvard Medical School and a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "You would think if there was a city where the wait time was the lowest, it would be here."

But the city's top healthcare providers may make wait times worse since they juggle hospital appointments, academic teaching loads and research projects. The city is also a destination for foreign travelers looking for high-quality care.

3. Technology developments may help improve long wait times. Although Boston's providers use the latest medical technology during treatment, they can update how they engage with patients, said Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, which is based in Boston.

Telemedicine could help in-office wait times, but restrictive telemedicine policies in Massachusetts mean insurance does not always pay for virtual visits, and offices have been slow to offer them.

4. Boston's technology sector is working on other low-cost solutions. The locally-based app company Amwell provides patients virtual appointments with primary care doctors and specialists starting at $69 before insurance. Another company, UberDoc, connects patients with specialists in the Boston area for a flat fee of $300 per appointment.

"We have a healthcare system that provides Star Wars medicine on a Flintstones delivery platform," Ms. Dentzer said. "We need to at least move up to The Jetsons."

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