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We’re #1! Healthcare Leads the Way in Travel and Wait Times

by Clive Riddle, March 8, 2019

Altarum recently released a six page report: Travel and Wait Times are Longest for Health Care Services and Result in an Annual Opportunity Cost of $89 Billion” which compiled data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. Their study found “waiting times for health care services in particular were much higher than the other service categories, over twice the length of the next closest, veterinary services.”

Alturm reports that “the time spent traveling and waiting for health care services on a day when an individual got care was over 50% of the time spent actually receiving care—45 combined minutes traveling & waiting vs. 76 minutes receiving care (data not shown). Among all time spent on health care related activities (self-care, assisting others, receiving professional care, waiting and travel), travel and waiting for care accounted for 19.7% of the total time spent, on average over two minutes a day or an hour per month.”

Altarum outs a price tag and all this traveling and waiting: “When quantified by applying an individual’s hourly wage as an approximate measure of the economic cost of time spent, travel and waiting costs averaged $89 billion dollars annually from 2006 thru 2017.”  But the really sad news is that “despite significant investments in the United States over this period in improving access to health care through better insurance, the use of innovative delivery systems, and advances in digitizing health care records and automating administrative processes, travel and wait times show no discernable improvements in these data from 2006 to 2017.” 

Vitals, recently acquired by WebMD, has annually released a report on physician wait times, Their most recent report tells us that where you’re traveling to or from makes a big difference in physician waits. Wisconsin has the shortest average wait time of 13 minutes 23 seconds while Alabama comes in as the longest with 22 minutes 19 seconds.  Your wait in Seattle averages 14 minutes 38 seconds (second shortest city– three seconds longer than Milwaukee) while a wait in El Paso comes in as the longest at 26 minutes 50 seconds. 

Vitals also reports that “30 percent of people reported they’ve walked out of an appointment due to long waits. What’s more, 1 in 5 report they’ve changed doctors because of long wait times.”


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