Wait times for family physician visits up almost 10 days since 2014


New patients are waiting almost 10 days longer for an appointment with a family physician in 2017 than they did in 2014, according to physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins.

The average wait time for a new patient to see a family physician for a routine physical was 29.3 days in 2017, a 50% increase from the 19.5 days reported in 2014. Investigators called and made appointments with 273 randomly selected family physicians in 15 large cities in January and February. This was the fourth such survey the company has conducted since 2004, although family physicians were not included until the second survey in 2009.

Average wait times for new-patient appointments.
This year, the survey also included family physicians in 15 midsized cities for the first time. The average wait time in these cities was even longer: 54.3 days for the 115 offices contacted. Yakima, Wash., had the longest average midsized-city wait of 153 days, while Billings, Mont., had a shortest-for-the-group average of 7 days. In the large cities, the longest average wait was 109 days in Boston, and the shortest wait was 8 days in Minneapolis, Merritt Hawkins reported.

The survey also included four other specialties – cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, and orthopedic surgery – and the average wait time for a new-patient appointment for all 1,414 physicians in all five specialties in the 15 large cities was 24.1 days, an increase of 30% from 2014. The average wait time for all specialties in the midsized cities was 32 days for the 494 offices surveyed, the company said.

“Physician appointment wait times are the longest they have been since we began conducting the survey,” Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins, said in a written statement. “Growing physician appointment wait times are a significant indicator that the nation is experiencing a shortage of physicians.”

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