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Summary:

Nationwide, the average doctor wait time decreased, but doctor reviews site Vitals reports that the general trend is toward longer wait times as more patients seek health care and doctors see more patients.

doctor lab coat

For most of us, sitting in the waiting room, twiddling our thumbs, is as much a part of the doctor’s visit as stepping on a scale and getting our temperature read. But, according to data released Tuesday by doctor review site Vitals, where you live can make a difference.

Nationwide, the overall average doctor wait time actually decreased slightly, from 21 minutes last year to 20 minutes and 15 seconds. But the company said the shortest average wait time increased. Last year, Wisconsin led with an average wait time of 15 minutes and 26 seconds. This year, the state with the shortest wait time is Alaska, at 16 minutes. Denver topped the list of cities with the shortest times, with a wait of 15 minutes and 25 seconds.

Even though the national average dropped, Vitals said the general trend was toward longer wait times as more people seek health services. The company, which maintains reviews, ratings and other information for 870,000 doctors and dentists in the country, said most of its reviews are for primary care doctors and internists who may be trying to squeeze in more patients as expenses get tight, which could also be contributing to the increasing wait times.

As more people enter the health system under the Affordable Care Act, exacerbating the country’s doctor shortage, several companies are trying to use technology to take some of the pressure off.  One Medical Group and Sherpaa offer concierge-style services, which charge individuals or employers an annual fee for the opportunity to get more in-person or virtual time with doctors. To make consultations cheaper and more convenient, insurers, like Aetna and Cigna, and employers, including GE and Delta, are also supporting telehealth services, which could help alleviate the doctor shortage.

In the last year, Vitals said patients have left about one million doctor reviews on its site, 65 percent of which included wait times. The site used that data to analyze wait time trends.

States with the shortest wait times
  • Alaska - 16 minutes, 28 seconds
  • Wisconsin – 16 minutes, 29 seconds
  • Minnesota – 17 minutes, 8 seconds
  • New Hampshire – 17 minutes, 10 seconds
  • North Dakota – 17 minutes, 43 seconds
States with the longest wait times
  • Mississippi – 24 minutes, 25 seconds
  • Alabama – 24 minutes, 3 seconds
  • Arkansas – 23 minutes, 40 seconds
  • Louisiana – 23 minutes, 3 seconds
  • Nevada – 23 minutes, 2 seconds
Cities with the shortest wait times
  • Denver – 15 minutes, 15 seconds
  • Minneapolis – 15 minutes, 44 seconds
  • Milwaukee – 16 minutes, 2 seconds
  • Seattle – 16 minutes, 25 seconds
  • Portland – 16 minutes, 28 seconds
  1. Statspotting.com Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Can’t help but say this: as more people get to know where the shortest wait times are, more people get there, and the wait times go up :-)

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  2. Hi there, I’m writing from Ireland, where I am a Medical Sociologist. The stats are very interesting. Could you tell me if they relate to ‘doctors’ of all types and averaged out. For example, do they include waiting times for hospital based consultants and community family practitioners?

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    1. Gina Larson-Stoller Wednesday, March 27, 2013

      Hi Socialbridge. The data was derived from our database of doctors (MD, DO) and dentists across America. If you’d like more information, contact me through the press center page on the vitals.com website.

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  3. Canada 2-3 hours+. On a good day. More likely you’ll wait 6-7 hours unless you actually go into cardiac arrest right there, or are bleeding on the floor.

    (I’m sure you think I’m exaggerating for effect, I’m not.)

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  4. How come they didn’t collect data on cities with the longest wait times?

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