Scheduling a doctor's appointment has never required so much patience - Demographics and doctor shortages are driving wait times higher:
Bottom Line: While almost all of the attention is focused on the issues of insurance and affordability (or lack thereof) - the other and perhaps most problematic healthcare issue is rearing it's ugly head. Doctor shortages.
For years we'd been warned that the demographics of the Boomer generation, and the healthcare needs of the generation with age, would lead to widespread doctor shortages. That appears to be playing out significantly already - even if it's simply being masked by the ability to seek emergency care when it's needed. Where it's occurring daily is less noticeable but is presenting significant issues for non-emergency healthcare needs.
According to new research from MerrittHawkins the average length of time it takes to simply be able to obtain a regular appointment has soared just over the past couple of years. Average length of time to schedule an appointment:
- 2014: 18.5 days
- 2017: 24 days
That's a 30%+ increase within just a couple of years and there's no sign of the trend slowing down due to rising healthcare demand and no sign of a surge of new doctors entering healthcare forthcoming. So today it's taking more than three weeks to simply be able to schedule an appointment and it's possible that it could grow to over a month over the next couple of years. The side effect of standard/preventative health care being pushed out is also creating additional pressure on the system - and most importantly our health - as it's creating an increase in demand for emergency healthcare. For many that may be in need of basic healthcare/preventative services - it may prove to be beneficial to use walk-in clinics and like medical facilities where possible, in lieu of waiting for healthcare that might lead to an increase in health problems during that time.