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Need to see a doctor quickly? Avoid Boston, try Dallas
By Jenny Gold Kaiser Health News
A survey of physician practices in 15 metropolitan areas across the country, which was taken before the health law expanded coverage, found that the average wait time for a new patient to see a physician in five medical specialties was 18.5 days.
Need to see a doctor? You may have to wait.
A survey of physician practices in 15 metropolitan areas across the country, which was taken before the health law expanded coverage, found that the average wait time for a new patient to see a physician in five medical specialties was 18.5 days. The longest waits were in Boston, where patients wait an average of 72 days to see a dermatologist and 66 days to see a family doctor. The shortest were in Dallas, where the average wait time is 10.2 days for all specialties, and just 5 days to see a family doctor.
“We have too few providers, which is creating a significant access problem,” says Travis Singleton, senior vice president of Merritt Hawkins in Texas, which conducted the survey. The health care and physician search consulting firm spoke with 1,399 medical offices between June and November 2013 in five different areas of specialization: cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedic surgery and family practice. Researchers called the practices and asked for the first available appointments for new patients needing routine care, such as a heart check up or a well-woman visit.
The good news is that wait times actually decreased slightly, down from an average of 20.4 days when the survey was last conducted in 2009, and down from 20.9 days in 2004. Singleton attributes the slight improvement to practices employing more midlevel providers like nurse practitioners, better health care IT to help with scheduling and an increase in the number of urgent care centers.
Even Boston, which has eye-popping wait times, has gotten better. The city’s average wait time dropped from 70 days in 2009 to 46 days in 2013. That nearly brings it back to its level of 45 days in 2004 before Massachusetts adopted its version of health care reform.
The bad news is that fewer doctors are accepting Medicaid: An average of 45.7 percent of physicians surveyed take Medicaid coverage, down from 55.4 percent in 2009. Acceptance rates varied widely, however, ranging from 73 percent in Boston to 23 percent in Dallas. An average of 76 percent of physicians surveyed accept Medicare.
The rates of Medicaid acceptance are likely to prove problematic as more and more Americans sign up for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many physicians you have,” says Singleton. “If no one will take your insurance, you’re going to end in the same place, and that’s probably the ER.” And with more patients covered both by Medicaid and private insurance, he says, wait times are likely to get worse.
But Ken Hertz of the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, which consults with physician practices, says wait times don’t always increase in proportion to patient volume. As plan deductibles and copays have gone up in recent years, patient volume in outpatient settings have actually declined, he says.
And long wait times can be attributed to many things other than patient volume, he adds, including operators not understanding the scheduling system. “Most practices are working diligently to see patients and see them in a timely manner, but there are a lot of moving parts,” he says.
“The successful practices will figure out new ways and approaches to shortening wait times. This isn’t going to be acceptable” in the long term, says Hertz.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Dr. Huntoon's perspective
Appreciate that this is a problem they can only solve by cutting corners and leaving things out. A person with a health concern needs to have ample time with their doctor to get proper understanding of their specific health concern. The doctor needs to have ample time to ask questions to understand what the patient is dealing with. These two vital ingredients are never going to change. Unfortunately, doctors are handcuffed because of the negotiated fees that they have agreed to with the insurance carrier, in an effort to be included as a participating provider and be able to help patients. The problem is, and will continue to be, in order for everyone to make a decent living and and continue to help people, we are going to need to make a huge adjustment in how healthcare is provided. With all the paperwork and all the checks and balances to substantiate need for care and what the carriers are willing to pay and have everyone still make a living, it becomes a numbers game, meaning we need more numbers to make a living supporting people as a healthcare provider. And the average person has no choice but to wait.
A Different Way
When you come to Advanced Alternative Medicine Center, you meet with Dr. Huntoon and you are not rushed and pushed through the system in an effort to get to the next patient. Dr. Huntoon takes his time and helps you by asking the important questions, understands what your unique health situation is and expains what needs to be done in language that you can understand. He then helps you to make informed decisions by discussing all your options. Unfortunately, Health Insurance in its current form will always perpetuate quick care, lots of waiting and no real solution to the problem. When you focus on eliminating symptoms, which occur when your body has lost 60 % of normal functioning, you will continue to have problems and never get to the source of the concern.
Have an evaluation with Dr. Huntoon if you truly want to understand what your body is telling you and find the specific and unique solutions for your health issues. After all, if you don't choose to follow through with the care plan, the cost of the exam and consult is returned to you. That's right, Advanced Alternative Medicine Center offers a money back guarantee. So what do you have to lose? Get the care you need and do it before the healthcare system makes you a statistic, before you waste your time and before you waste your money. You owe yourself that much.
To support as many people as possible in their quest for health and enable them to improve and maintain their health to the highest level possible, while educating them about the benefits of Chiropractic, Natural Healthcare and Holistic Living, so they in turn can teach others to support us having a healthy community.