Physician Supply and Demand Trends
By Travis Singleton
At least two interesting developments in the arena of physician supply and demand trends took place in the same week of March this year.
One development was the release by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) of its projected physician shortage numbers. The AAMC projects that by 2030, the U.S. could be short of up to 104,900 physicians.
The second development was the release by Merritt Hawkins of its 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates. The survey indicates that the time it takes to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 major metropolitan areas has increased by 30 percent since 2014.
According to the survey, it now takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 of the largest cities in the U.S., up from 18.5 days in 2014, 20.5 days in 2009 and 21 days in 2004, previous years the survey was conducted. In some cities and in some specialties, wait times are becoming extreme.
Boston is experiencing the longest average physician appointment wait times of the 15 metro markets examined in the survey: 109 days to see a family physician, 52 days to see a dermatologist, 45 days to see an obstetrician/gynecologist, 45 days to see a cardiologist and 11 days to see an orthopedic surgeon. On average, it takes 52 days to schedule a physician appointment in Boston, according to the survey.
Average physician appointment wait times in other cities tracked by the survey include 37 days in Philadelphia, 28 days in Portland, 28 days in Seattle, 27 days in Denver, and 24 days in Los Angeles.
The 2017 survey includes for the first time average new patient physician appointment wait times in 15 mid-sized metropolitan areas of approximately 90,000 to 140,000 people. The average time to schedule a new patient physician appointment in mid-sized metro areas is 32 days, or 33 percent longer than in the 15 major metro markets.
Yakima, Washington has the longest average physician appointment wait times of the 15 mid-sized cities at 49 days while Billings, Montana has the shortest at 11 days.
Though the health system appears to be on the threshold of yet another series of profound changes, one thing remains constant: the demand for physicians continues to outpace the supply.
The 2017 survey includes a wealth of data not only on physician appointment wait times but on the rate of physician Medicare and Medicaid acceptance. I would be happy to provide readers who email me with a copy of the survey and to receive comments regarding the current state of physician supply and demand.
Travis Singleton is Senior Vice President of Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare. He can be reached here or at 469-524-1630.
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