Waits To See Specialists in Boston Increased to Average of 50 Days, Study Finds
The average time patients in Boston wait for an appointment to see a specialist has increased over the last five years to an average of 50 days and can be up to one year, despite the fact that the city has an "abundance" of specialists, according to a recent study, the Boston Globe reports. For the study, Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a Texas-based consulting and physician recruiting firm, surveyed 1,162 physician offices in 15 metropolitan areas to try to re-create the situation of a new patient seeking a nonurgent appointment in five specialty areas -- cardiology, dermatology, family medicine, obstetrics-gynecology and orthopedic surgery.
The average wait time in Boston is more than three weeks longer than any other city included in the study. The study determined that while Boston patients had the longest wait times for appointments to see dermatologists, ob-gyns and family practitioners, Dallas had the longest wait times to see orthopedic surgeons, followed by Boston. Miami, Minneapolis and San Diego all had longer wait times to see cardiologists than Boston.
According to the study, while Boston patients have long faced delays, the problem may have been exacerbated by an increase in patients seeking care following the implementation of the 2006 Massachusetts health insurance law. While the study did not pinpoint a cause for longer wait times in Boston, the study's authors wrote that the city's experience "may signal what could happen nationally in the event that access to health care is expanded through health care reform."
Brian Rossman, research director for Health Care for All, said the reason for long wait times also is because many specialists in Boston work for academic medical centers and do not see patients full time (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 5/15).
The survey is available online (.pdf).