It takes longer to get a doctor’s appointment, survey finds

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Diving brief:

  • It takes 8% longer to schedule a new patient with a doctor than in 2017 and 24% longer than in 2004, indicating a growing shortage of doctors in the United States, according to a new survey by AMN Healthcare.
  • The staffing agency tracked wait times for appointments in five specialties: obstetrics/gynecology, cardiology, orthopedic surgery, dermatology and family medicine. It revealed that the average wait for an appointment in 15 major metropolitan markets is 26 days, down from 24 days in 2017 and 21 days in 2004, when the survey was first conducted.
  • Compared to five years ago, the average time a new patient has to wait to see a doctor has increased by 26% in cardiology and 48% in orthopedic surgery, but has decreased by 30% in family medicine, that AMN Healthcare attributes to the proliferation of urgent care centers. , retail clinics and telemedicine. The average wait time increased by 7% for a dermatology appointment and by 19% for an obstetrics-gynecology visit.

Overview of the dive:

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the United States could experience a shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034, including primary and specialty care. The demographic trends behind the projected deficit include a growing and aging population, an aging medical workforce, physician burnout and fewer new physicians entering the profession, AMN Healthcare said.

With more than 30% of active physicians aged 60 or older, according to data from the American Medical Association, a wave of retirements can be expected. At the same time, the number of new physicians entering the field was limited by an education funding cap that Congress enacted in 1997. The cap was lifted in 2021 to fund 1,000 new positions, below what is needed, the recruitment company said.

In the cities studied, doctor-to-population ratios are among the highest in the country, implying that access to doctors could be more problematic in areas where there are fewer doctors per capita, the AMN said.

“It’s a sobering sign for the rest of the country when even patients in big cities have to wait weeks to see a doctor,” said Tom Florence, president of AMN’s physician search division.

The survey also found that 82% of doctors in the top 15 markets accepted Medicare as a method of payment, up from 85% in 2017. Detroit had the highest number of doctors accepting Medicare at 93%, while New York had the lowest. at 58%.

Only 54% of doctors accepted Medicaid, down from 53% in 2017. Boston had the highest number of doctors accepting Medicaid at 72% while Dallas had the lowest at 30%.

The survey includes data from 1,034 medical practices in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minnesota, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

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