Reason for an e-visit? Average patient waits over 20 minutes at a doctor’s office

doctor waiting room

The average U.S. patient spends about 20 minutes in the waiting room at a doctor’s office; that’s more time than they’ll probably spend with the doctor.

In a new analysis, doctor review site compiled patient-reported wait times from its database of more than 870,000 physicians and ranked states based on their average times. The average wait time across the U.S. was actually down about 45 seconds in 2012, according to Vitals, and clocked in at 20 minutes and 15 seconds.

vitals wait time chart


Vitals, though, chose to highlight that the shortest average wait time in a state increased more than a minute from 2011 to 2012. Doctors in Alaska kept patients an average of about 16-and-a-quarter minutes last year; in 2011, Wisconsin doctors saw patients the quickest with an average wait time of 15-and-a-quarter minutes.

Logic would dictate that as healthcare moves toward more of a consumer-empowered, retail model, the convenience factor will become increasingly important in how patients choose physicians.

“As the supply of qualified doctors remains unchanged, the new healthcare law requires 30 million more Americans to have health insurance,” said CEO Mitch Rothschild in a statement. “This flood of new demand is causing a major disruption to the system. For the unchanging supply of doctors, it will mean less time to spend with patients in examination rooms. It also has a direct impact on how long it takes to see a doctor — and ultimately weighs into how consumers choose their providers.”

Research, meanwhile, indicates that old-fashioned word of mouth still plays a big role in consumers’s decisions. Nonetheless, health IT companies like RegisterPatient are developing products to improve the experience of a doctor’s visit, and others like Vitals, Healthgrades and BetterDoctor are building sites patients can consult to find and rate doctors.

[Chart from Vitals]