CHA News Article

Health Care Wait Times Vary Greatly Throughout U.S.
IOM report examines health care scheduling and access

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) says that wait times for health care appointments across the country range from same-day service to several months. The report, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that delays in health care access negatively affect health outcomes, patient satisfaction, health care utilization and organization reputation. Extended wait times are also associated with higher rates of appointment no-shows, as feelings of dissatisfaction and inconvenience discourage patients from attending a first appointment or returning for follow-up care. Continuous assessment, monitoring, and realigning of supply and demand are necessary to improve access, according to the report. In addition, alternatives to in-office physician visits, including the use of non-physician clinicians and telephone consultants, can often help to meet patients’ needs.

The report  issued several recommendations to help achieve immediate responsiveness, including ongoing evaluation; immediate engagement of patient concerns at the time of inquiry; patient preference on timing and nature of care invited at the time of inquiry; need-tailored care with reliable, acceptable alternatives to office visits; surge contingencies in place to ensure timely accommodation of needs; and continuous assessment of changing circumstances in each care setting.