Doctor shortage fallout: Survey finds new patients wait longer for appointments

There’s been a steady increase in the amount of time it takes for new patients to get doctor appointments, a reflection of the physician shortage, according to a new survey.

The average time to schedule a new patient appointment has increased by 30% since 2014 in 15 major metropolitan areas and now stands at 24 days, according to a survey (PDF) by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search firm.

The 2017 survey of 1,414 physician offices shows a steady increase in the time it takes to get an appointment, which was 18.5 days in 2014, 20.5 days in 2009 and 21 days in 2004, the previous years the company conducted the survey.

“Physician appointment wait times are the longest they have been since we began conducting the survey. Growing physician appointment wait times are a significant indicator that the nation is experiencing a shortage of physicians,” Mark Smith, the company’s president, said in an announcement (PDF).

The survey tracked physician appointment wait times for five medical specialties in 15 areas of the country, as well as physician Medicare and Medicare acceptance rates. Wait times were the longest in Boston, where the average time to see a family physician is 109 days. Dallas had the shortest average wait time, at 15 days.

The average rate of Medicare acceptance is 85%. Medicaid acceptance is 53%, up from 46% in 2014.

The latest statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show a projected shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030. Shortages are already being felt in rural areas of the country.