Vitals Finds Patient Satisfaction Drops after a Twenty-Minute Wait for Doctor

– 7th Annual Report Analyzes Consumer
Sentiment Tied to Doctor Wait Times

Study Reveals Wait
Times Across States, Cities and Doctor Specialties –

– National Average Wait Time Down Nearly 10% since
Time Report Debut in 2009 –

LYNDHURST, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–When it comes to waiting for a doctor’s appointment, most patients are
waiting 19 minutes, 19 seconds – which is just good enough to keep
patients happy with their service. Vitals 7th annual wait
time report found that average wait times have improved meaningfully
since the Physician Wait Time report debuted in 2009, down nearly 10%
from the average 21 minutes and 18 seconds patients once spent in the
waiting room, and that consumers get increasingly cranky after eclipsing
the 20-minute threshold.

The decrease comes at a time when health care delivery has never been
more dynamic: subject to the consumer-centric rise of alternative care
like tele-health and retail clinics; online tools that inform health
care decision-making; and health reform that has added patients/visits
to the marketplace.

Within this climate, Vitals studied over 6 million reviews left by
patients for doctors to see how wait times correlate to star ratings and
found that doctors with five-stars, the highest doctor rating on Vitals,
had a 13-minute wait on average. In contrast, doctors with a 1-star, the
lowest rating, averaged a 33-minute wait.

Wait Time Effect on Doctor Rating






Average Wait


  5     12 min, 56 sec
  4     18 min, 19 sec
  3     21 min, 40 sec
  2     26 min, 11 sec
  1     33 min, 1 sec

The findings also indicate an important correlation between wait time
and patient satisfaction. In fact, positive reviews start to skew
negative after patients are left waiting more than 20 minutes. For
instance, 49 percent of patients who had a 15-minute wait rated their
doctor positively. Yet, only 27 percent of patients who waited for 45
minutes ultimately left a positive physician review.

Deeper analysis of reviews mentioning wait time revealed negative
sentiments began even before the appointment with patients complaining
about being kept on hold or not being able to get through to the office.
Some also groused about not being able to get into the office for weeks
– or even months. Negative doctor-patient experiences were also common
with long wait times. Patients were more likely to complain of “rude”
doctors or “wrong” diagnosis or prescriptions, leading many to
succinctly conclude: “Don’t waste your time or money.”

In contrast, patients mentioning wait times in positive ratings were
likely to “highly recommend” the doctor. The doctors were often labeled
“friendly,” “kind” and “caring.” In fact, it seems temperament can trump
time. Patients said an extended wait was “worth it” for a doctor who was
“thorough” and “took time to listen” and “didn’t rush” during

“As a doctor, it’s critical to be skilled, but it’s also important to
treat patients well,” said Mitch Rothschild, Founder and Chairman of
Vitals. “What our analysis tells us is that wait time is an important
factor in the patient experience and doctors who manage the clock
effectively build better doctor-patient relationships.”

Rothschild added, “Undoubtedly macro-dynamics impacting health delivery
today – including the rise of urgent care facilities – has driven the
10% reduction in wait time. While we are uncertain how significantly
wait times can be reduced from here, we are certain that these trends
and other new forces that make patients shoppers of health services,
will continue to create an environment where providers are challenged to
deliver higher-quality care every visit, every day.”

Specialist Wait Times

Just as opinions vary, so do specialists. Vitals found large variations
in wait time depending on the doctor’s specialty. Radiation oncologists
(12 minutes, 29 seconds) and sports medicine specialists (13 minutes, 4
seconds), had the shortest wait times out of the 139 types of
specialists Vitals analyzed. Spine surgeons had the longest wait times,
averaging 29 minutes, 34 seconds.

Doctor Specialties with the Shortest Wait Time

Specialty     Average Wait Time
Radiation Oncology     12 min, 29 sec
Sports Medicine     13 min, 4 sec
Plastic Surgery     13 min, 13 sec
General Dentistry     13 min, 51 sec
Allergy/Immunology     15 min, 56 sec

Regional Wait Times

Location matters, too. Out of the 50 largest cities across the U.S.,
Seattle had the shortest average wait time at 12 minutes, 47 seconds.
Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Austin and Omaha were also in the top five. For
the fifth year in a row, El Paso had the highest reported wait time at
25 minutes, 5 seconds, on average. Miami, Memphis, Las Vegas and Detroit
were also among the cities with the highest average wait time.

Cities with the Shortest Wait Times

City     Average Wait Time
Seattle     12 min, 47 sec
Milwaukee     13 min, 43 sec
Minneapolis     14 min, 25 sec
Austin     14 min, 29 sec
Omaha     14 min, 37 sec

New Hampshire defended its position as the state with the shortest wait
time at 13 minutes, 25 seconds. Wisconsin, Maine, Washington and South
Dakota also had short wait times across their states. For a second year,
Alabama was ranked at the bottom of the states, averaging 21 minutes, 1
second. Mississippi, West Virginia, Arizona and Nevada were also in the
bottom five.

States With the Shortest Wait Times

State     Average Wait Time
New Hampshire     13 min, 25 sec
Wisconsin     13 min, 29 sec
Maine     13 min, 37 sec
Washington     13 min, 52 sec
South Dakota     14 min, 16 sec

Vitals’ annual Physician Wait Time Report, now in its seventh year, was
compiled from patient-reported wait times in 2015.

About Vitals

Vitals empowers everyone to shop for their health care like an expert.
We bring together cost and quality transparency along with innovative
consumer engagement programs to help people select high-quality,
lower-cost care. Vitals leads the market with incentive and engagement
programs that pay people to shop. Our solutions achieve measurable and
sustainable savings for consumers, employers and health plans. Vitals
helps more than 120 million people each year access better, more
affordable care.

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Rosie Mattio, 917-583-6349