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DALLAS, TX – The time it takes to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 major metropolitan areas has increased by 30 percent since 2014, according to a new survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare.  

The 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates indicates that it now takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient physician  appointment in 15 of the largest cities in the U.S. , up from 18.5 days in 2014, 20.5 days in 2009 and 21 days in 2004, previous years the survey was conducted. 

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

Wait Times Longest in Boston 

The survey of 1,414 physician offices in 15 large metro areas tracks average new patient appointment wait times in five different medical specialties: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery and family medicine.  

Boston is experiencing the longest average physician appointment wait times of the 15 metro markets examined in the survey: 109 days to see a family physician, 52 days to see a dermatologist, 45 days to see an obstetrician/gynecologist, 45 days to see a cardiologist and 11 days to see an orthopedic surgeon.    On average, it takes 52 days to schedule a physician appointment in Boston, according to the survey.  

Dallas is experiencing the shortest average physician appointment wait times of the 15 metro markets at 15 days.   Average physician appointment wait times in other cities tracked by the survey include 37 days in Philadelphia, 28 days in Portland, 28 days in Seattle, 27 days in Denver, and 24 days in Los Angeles. 

Wait Times Longer in Mid-Sized Cities 

Merritt Hawkins’ 2017 survey includes for the first time average new patient physician appointment wait times in 15 mid-sized metropolitan areas of approximately 90,000 to 140,000 people.   The average time to schedule a new patient physician appointment in mid-sized metro areas is 32 days, according to the survey, or 33 percent longer than in the 15 major metro markets.     

Yakima, Washington has the longest average physician appointment wait times of the 15 mid-sized cities at 49 days while Billings, Montana has the shortest at 11 days.  

According to Smith, the 15 major metropolitan markets tracked in the survey have some of the highest physician-to-population ratios in the country, yet physician appointment waits times can still be prolonged in these areas.   The mid-sized metro areas have fewer physicians per capita than the major metro areas and correspondingly longer appointment wait times, Smith said.          

“Finding a physician who can see you today, or three weeks from today, can be a challenge, even in large urban areas where there is a relatively robust supply of doctors, ” said Smith.   “The challenge becomes even more difficult in smaller communities that have fewer physicians per population.”

 Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates 

The survey also tracked how many physicians accept Medicare and Medicaid as a form of payment.   The average rate of physician Medicare acceptance is 85 percent in the 15 large metro markets and 81 percent in the 15 mid-sized markets. The average rate of physician Medicaid acceptance is 53 percent in the large metro markets and 60 percent in the mid-sized markets, according to the survey. 

According to Smith, the survey suggests that physician supply and accessibility will need to be enhanced as the healthcare system continues to evolve.    

“More physicians will need to be trained, access to other types of providers expanded, and emerging technologies employed to ensure that health care delayed does not become health care denied,” Smith said.                     

 Additional information about Merritt Hawkins’ 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates can be accessed at www.merritthawkins.com

About Merritt Hawkins 

Merritt Hawkins is the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and is a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AMN) the innovator of healthcare staffing solutions and the nation’s largest healthcare staffing organization.