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Need a quick doctor’s appointment? Good luck.

DoctorBy Brad Broker

Hope you’re not in a hurry for that doctor’s appointment.  It may be a while.

A new survey found that the average wait time to see a doc is 18.5 days and it may take as long as two and a half months for new patients.

Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm, set out to determine the average time a patient must wait to see a physician.  Researchers called on 1,399 offices and asked for the next available new patient appointment.  The “patients” identified the following non-emergent reasons for their visits at one of five specialties:

  • Cardiology: A heart check-up
  • Dermatology: A routine skin exam to detect possible carcinomas/melanomas
  • Orthopedic Surgery: Injury or pain in the knee
  • OB/GYN: A routine “well-woman”gynecological exam
  • Family Practice: A routine physical

The surveys were conducted in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

Researchers found that Boston has the longest wait times including 72 days to see a dermatologist and 66 days to see a family doc.  On average, patients wait over 45 days to schedule a doctor appointment in the Boston area.

“Finding a physician who can see you today, or three weeks from today, can be a challenge, even in urban areas where there is a high ratio of physicians per population,” said Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins.  “The demand for doctors is simply outstripping the supply.”

For the specialties and markets surveyed, the longest and shortest wait times were:

  • Cardiology: Washington, D.C., 32 days; Atlanta, 11 days.
  • Dermatology: Boston, 72; Miami, 16.
  • Orthopedic Surgery: San Diego, 18; Houston, Minneapolis and Philadelphia tied with 5 days.
  • OB/GYN: Boston, 46; Seattle, 10.
  • Family Practice: Boston, 66; Dallas 5.

There is a small, silver lining to the survey.  Compared to similar research conducted in 2004, the average wait time for doctor visits has shrunk to 16.8 days from 18.8 days.




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