How Quick Will A Doctor See You As A New Patient?

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NEW SURVEY HAS SOME ANSWERS

EDITOR’S NOTE:  We’re delighted to again welcome Kelley Dunn, Senior Director of Marketing for Merritt Hawkins the nation’s leading physician search and consulting firm and a company of AMN Healthcare, as a guest columnist for SpaceCoastDaily.com and Space Coast Medicine and Active Living magazine.

She reports on a survey based on 2013 data that examines the time needed to schedule a new-patient appointment with a physician in 15 major metropolitan markets and the rates of physician Medicaid and Medicare acceptance in these markets.

Wait times to secure an appointment for a new patient visit have been a long-established issue with consumers. The Miami metropolitan market is the closest market to the Space Coast included in the Merritt Hawkins survey, and may not precisely reflect our medical community’s availability.

Although the demographics are similar, a recent Space Coast Medicine and Active Living telephone survey of wait times for an adult (with insurance) new-patient primary care appointment, which included a random sample of 40 Space Coast primary care practices, revealed an even longer average wait time of 22 days (range 7-42 days) than the average 12-day wait in the Miami area. Also, 7 of the 40 practices surveyed were not taking any new patients and were excluded from the average.

In August of 2012, we reported on a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study which used data on office-based physicians from the 2011 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Electronic Medical Records Supplement to summarize the percentage of physicians currently accepting different categories of new patients. The percentage on average of U.S. office-based physicians accepting new Medicaid patients in 2011 was 69.4%, with Florida below that at 59.1%

However, that percentage was much lower here on the Space Coast. In a 2012 random phone survey of office-based primary care physician practices in Brevard County done by SpaceCoastDaily.com, only 2 out of the 40 (5%) primary care physicians contacted were accepting new Medicaid patients.

Access to physicians for Medicaid patients is particularly challenging because of the historically very poor pay associated with Medicaid coverage, administrative hassles and delays in getting paid. 

—Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

How Quick Will A Doctor See You As A New Patient?

MERRITT HAWKINS — Need to see a family physician, dermatologist or an obstetrician/gynecologist? Get in line, because it could take weeks to schedule an appointment, a new survey indicates

Conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm and a company of AMN Healthcare, the survey of 1,399 medical offices tracks the average time needed to schedule a new patient doctor appointment in 15 large metropolitan areas, including Miami   The survey reports average new patient doctor appointment wait times in five different medical specialties: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery and family practice.

IT TAKES MONTHS FOR A NEW PATIENT APPOINTMENT IN BOSTON

Boston is experiencing the longest average doctor appointment wait times of the 15 metro markets examined in the survey: 72 days to see a dermatologist, 66 days to see a family physician, 46 days to see an ob/gyn, 27 days to see a cardiologist, and 16 days to see an orthopedic surgeon.

On average, it takes over 45 days to schedule a new patient doctor appointment in the Boston area, the survey indicates.  In each of the three years Merritt Hawkins has released the survey (2004, 2009, 2014) Boston has averaged the longest physician appointment wait times among the 15 cities.

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Merritt Hawkins’ annual report on physician appointment wait times (average wait times for family practice above) again found that patience must be a required patient virtue because the wait remains a very long part of the healthcare experience. (Information courtesy of Merritt Hawkins; presentation by Medical Practice Insider)

Other average physician appointment wait times tracked by the survey include 28 days to see a cardiologist in Denver, 49 days to see a dermatologist in Philadelphia, 35 days to see an ob/gyn in Portland, 18 days to see an orthopedic surgeon in San Diego, and 26 days to see a family physician in New York.  Physician appointment wait times tracked in the survey varied from as little as one day to over eight months, with an overall average in all metro areas and all specialties of about 19 days.

AVERAGE WAIT IN MIAMI IS TWO WEEKS

What about Miami?   Average new patient appointment wait times for the Miami area are as follows:

Average New Patient Appointment Wait Times/Miami

Cardiology                              18 days

Dermatology                           16 days

Obstetrics/gynecology           13 days

Orthopedic surgery                 9 days

Family practice                        12 days

Average                                  14 days

While Miami fared better than some cities in the survey, the average wait time to schedule a new patient appointment with a physician is two weeks.

The survey highlights the fact that finding a physician who can see you today, or two weeks from today, can be a challenge, even in urban areas where there is a high ratio of physicians per population.

MEDICAID ACCEPTANCE OVERALL LESS THAN 50 PERCENT

The survey also tracks how many physician practices accept Medicaid and Medicare as a form of payment in the 15 metro markets.  Boston has the highest rate of Medicaid acceptance tracked in the survey at 73%, while Dallas has the lowest at 23%.

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Only 46% of physician practices surveyed accepted new Medicaid patients. Access to physicians for Medicaid patients is particularly challenging because of the historically very poor pay associated with Medicaid coverage, administrative hassles and delays in getting paid.

The overall average rate of Medicaid acceptance for all five specialties in all 15 markets is 46%, the survey indicates.  Below is the Medicaid acceptance rate for the five specialties tracked in the survey for Miami:

Physician Medicaid Acceptance Rates/Miami

Cardiology                              71%

Dermatology                           45%

Obstetrics/gynecology           40%

Orthopedic surgery                   60%

Family practice                          56%

Average                                     54%

Many physicians are not accepting Medicaid because it often pays less than what it costs physicians to provide care.

The rate of Medicare acceptance tracked by the survey was higher than the Medicaid rate, with an acceptance rate in all 15 cities and all five specialties of 76%.    The Medicare acceptance rate in Miami is somewhat lower than the national averages, as the numbers below indicate.

Physician Medicare Acceptance Rates/Miami

Cardiology                                    82%

Dermatology                                 55%

Obstetrics/gynecology                 55%

Orthopedic surgery                      75%

Family practice                             81%

Average                                        69%

As these numbers demonstrate, having health insurance does not always ensure access to a physician.   Access to health insurance is expanding, and a corresponding increase in the number of physicians will be needed to ensure that health care delayed does not become health care denied.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelley Dunn

Kelley Dunn

Kelley Dunn is Senior Director with Merritt Hawkins, the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS). She earned a double major in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Georgia, a Masters degree from Florida Atlantic University, and is currently a faculty instructor with the University of Florida. With over 8 years of healthcare staffing experience, Kelley has consulted with over 2,000 clinics and hospitals in Florida. She can be reached at 770-481-1181 or Kelley.Dunn@merritthawkins.com.


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