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8 trends in physician wait times — Midsized markets have 32.8% longer waits than major metro areas

A study released from Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company, reports physician wait times are growing longer.

The study authors examined wait times for family medicine and several specialty physicians in 15 major and 15 mid-sized metropolitan areas. The researchers attempted to schedule new patient appointments for a non-emergent issue. The calls were conducted between Jan. 9 and Feb. 13, 2017 and physicians were selected at random.

The key findings include:

1. The average wait time to make a new appointment with physicians in the 15 large metro markets was 24.1 days, a 30 percent increase from 2014.

2. Patients in Boston had the longest wait times for new physician visits, at 52.4 days on average. Among the mid-sized metro areas, Yakima, Wash., had the longest new patient wait time at 48.8 days.

3. The appointment wait times in the midsized markets were longer than the major metro markets; the midsized markets reported an average of 32 days wait time, up 32.8 percent from major metro areas.

4. Dallas reported the lowest average wait times among the major cities, at 14.8 days. Patients in Billings, Mont., had the lowest average wait times for the mid-sized market, at 10.8 days.

5. The average wait time in the major markets to see a family physician was 29 days, up 50 percent from 2014. The longest wait time for family physicians was in Boston, with a 109 day average wait time. Among mid-sized markets, patients in Albany, N.Y., wait an average of 56.3 days to see a family physician.

6. The Medicaid acceptance rate in the major metro areas was 53 percent, compared to 60 percent in the mid-sized markets.

7. The average wait time for specialty physicians was 24.1 days in the major metro areas, up from 18.5 days on average in 2014.

8. Boston and Minneapolis had the highest average Medicare acceptance rate for specialists, at 100 percent. Houston had the lowest at 69 percent. The average Medicare acceptance rate was 84.5 percent.

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