New Patients in Big Cities Wait About 28 Days for Appointment


New patients wait about 28 days on average to get an appointment with an ob.gyn., according to a survey of wait times in 15 large cities.

A new patient seeking an appointment for a routine well-woman gynecologic exam could wait anywhere between 2.5 and 98.7 days, with an average wait time of 27.5 days. The survey, conducted by the national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates, polled 1,162 physician offices including 228 ob.gyn. practices. The survey also examined wait times for cardiologists, dermatologists, orthopedic surgeons, and family physicians. (See chart.)

The survey showed wide variation in wait times for new patient appointments both nationally and within cities. For example, the average wait for an ob.gyn. appointment in Boston was 70 days, compared with just 5 days in Minneapolis. But within Boston, the wait times for appointments ranged from 14 days to 200 days.

“Finding an available physician can be challenging today, even in large urban areas where most doctors practice,” said Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins & Associates. Physician access may be even more of a problem in areas with fewer physicians, the report on the survey findings concluded.

From September 2008 through March 2009, researchers at Merritt Hawkins called physician offices in the 15 cities to schedule the first available appointment for a new patient with a nonemergent health need. The offices were selected at random through online searches.

The survey involved physician offices in Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis; New York; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Seattle; and Washington.


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