National Survey: New Patient Wait Times.

A recent survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins from January 9, 2017 through February 13, 2017, examined the time needed to schedule a new patient physician appointment, as well as the rates of Medicare and Medicaid physician acceptance in 15 major metropolitan areas and in 15 mid-sized metropolitan areas.

Merritt Hawkins’ goal was to replicate the experience of someone new to a community seeking to schedule a non-emergent physician appointment through a generally accessible source, such as the internet, the Yellow Pages, Healthgrades, or a PPO physician directory. 

The researchers surveyed 1414 offices in major metropolitan service areas: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

And, 494 offices in mid-sized metropolitan service areas: Albany, New York; Billings, Montana; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; Evansville, Indiana; Fargo, North Dakota; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Hampton, Virginia; Hartford, Connecticut; Lafayette, Louisiana; Manchester, New Hampshire; Odessa, Texas; Savannah, Georgia; Temecula, California; Yakima, Washington.

The medical specialties contacted for non-emergency appointments were as follows: Cardiology (heart check-up), Dermatology (routine skin exam), Orthopedic surgery (injury or pain in the knee), Obstetrics/Gynecology (routine “Well-Woman’s” exam) and Family Practice (routine physical).


There are some caveats to the survey:


  1. The survey does not measure physician availability in cases of urgent care or medical emergency.
  2. It can be difficult to measure availability through one phone call, as appointments can unexpectedly open up, or the physician may be out of town (taking longer than usual to schedule an appointment).
  3. Demand for medical care can fluctuate due to seasonal illness, i.e., flu season, causing longer wait times.
  4. Researchers abandoned scheduling attempts when they encountered answering machines or unavailable answering services.

Researchers compared the 2017 survey results to previous surveys (conducted in 2004, 2009 & 2014), questioning whether an increase in wait times in 2017 are caused by an inflated demand for medical care due to the expansion of health insurance through the ACA (the Affordable Healthcare Act now covering 20 million Americans (many of whom were uninsured in previous years)).

The authors note: “These results are a snapshot of physician accessibility at a particular time and in particular places. A change in timing, location or approach could yield different results.”

Average new patient appointment wait times: 

Large metropolitan service areas: 24.1 days
Mid-sized metropolitan service areas: 32 days


Average insured patient wait times: 

Cardiology: 21.1 days
Dermatology: 32.3 days
OB/GYN: 26.4 days
Orthopedic Surgeon: 11.4 days
Family Practice: 29.3 days

Average Medicaid patient wait times: 
Cardiology:  77.1 days
Dermatology: 33.3 days
OB/GYN: 54.7 days
Orthopedic Surgeon: 45 days
Family Practice: 54.9 days
Average Medicare patient wait times:
Cardiology: 97.1 days
Dermatology: 90 days
OB/GYN: 72.1 days
Orthopedic Surgeon: 87.4 days

Family Practice: 75.7 days

The national average for new patient appointment at a Family Practice is 29.3 days. At 4C Medical Group, we offer new patient appointments within 48 hours at all of our clinic locations. Please call us today to schedule your appointment: (480) 455 -3000.

Read the full survey here.

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