PPACA hasn’t flooded waiting rooms
Average wait times have actually fallen …
At least that’s what the sixth annual report from Vitals on wait times for doctors appointments says.
The health plan consultant has been gathering data annually on how long people wait on average to see primary care providers. This year’s study shows that, on a national basis, wait times have dropped by a full minute, to 19 minutes and 16 seconds. There’s considerable difference in wait times when analyzed by state—for instance, patients in New Hampshire wait just 15 minutes, while those in Alabama are cooling their heels for more than 23.
“As millions of Americans entered the health care system for the first time through the Affordable Care Act, analysts warned of a coming strain on the health care system. One prediction was overcrowded offices, resulting in longer waits for patient care,” the study said. “Yet, instead of going up, wait times are actually coming down.”
Factors that could be contributing to shorter wait times, cited by Vitals, included: Increased use of alternative care facilities, like urgent care centers and retail clinics; Physician extenders, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, that ease doctor caseloads; A rise of concierge medicine that may be diverting patients from traditional group practice care.
“In fact, wait times for primary care doctors, the doctors Americans see the most, were generally down over one minute (1 minute, 11 seconds) in a year-over-year comparison,” Vitals said.