Tags: doctor | shortage | waits

Doc Waits Longest in Boston, Shortest in Dallas

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 05:58 PM

By Nick Tate

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Does it seem like it takes forever to land an appointment with a doctor? It's not just your imagination. Depending on where you live and the type of doctor you need to see, it can take weeks or months to book an appointment with a medical specialist, according to a new survey of practices in 15 metropolitan areas.

According to Kaiser Health News, the survey — taken last year —found that the average wait time for a new patient to see a physician in five medical specialties was 18.5 days, with doctor shortages growing in many areas of the country.
 
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The longest waits were in Boston, where patients wait an average of 72 days to see a dermatologist and 66 days to see a family doctor. The shortest were in Dallas, where the average wait time is 10.2 days for all specialties, and just 5 days to see a family doctor.
 
"We have too few providers, which is creating a significant access problem," said Travis Singleton, senior vice president of Merritt Hawkins in Texas, which conducted the survey.
 
The health care and physician search consulting firm surveyed 1,399 medical offices between June and November 2013 in five different areas of specialization: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery, and family practice. Researchers called the practices and asked for the first available appointments for new patients needing routine care, such as a heart exam or a wellness visit.
 
The good news is wait times actually decreased slightly — down from an average of 20.4 days when the survey was last conducted in 2009, and down from 20.9 days in 2004 — in part because more midlevel healthcare workers like nurse practitioners are providing care.
 
The bad news is the survey found that fewer doctors are accepting Medicaid: An average of 45.7 percent of physicians surveyed take Medicaid coverage, down from 55.4 percent in 2009. By comparison, an average of 76 percent of physicians surveyed accept Medicare.
 
And with more patients covered both by Medicaid and private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Singleton said, wait times are likely to get worse.
 
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many physicians you have," said Singleton. "If no one will take your insurance, you're going to end in the same place, and that’s probably the ER."

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