Measuring Practice Success and Patient Care: Identifying Specialties
with Long Appointment Wait Times

Eric Urquiza, Sr. Vice President of Operations & Client Experience at AristaMD

Merritt Hawkins reports that the nationwide average wait time to see an orthopedic surgeon is relatively short – just 16.9 days. However, looking at the average can be misleading.

  • This average is a 48% increase when compared to 2017
  • Getting an appointment with an orthopedist varies tremendously by location – San Diego averages 55 days.

If you are wondering which specialties have the longest wait times in your area, I would be happy to share the Merrit Hawkins survey reference above and some of our independent research.

Several factors impact appointment wait times. Not all specialists accept Medicare and Medicaid. Specialists are often clustered in metropolitan areas and unevenly distributed across the county.

Patients are less likely to schedule and attend a specialist appointment:

  • When the wait time is extended.
  • Travel distance to the specialist is significant.
  • Cost of the appointment is high — the patient has high-deductible insurance, or the specialist is out-of-network.

In addition, patient referrals are often prioritized by urgency or whether they are a current patient. And, scheduling an appointment with a specialist is only the first step — patients visiting a specialist average three encounters with a specialist for each condition.

Focus on High-Value eConsults to Manage Care for Specialties with Long Appointment Wait Times

Targeting Healthcare Cost Savings? Focus on High-Value eConsults

At-risk practices focusing on high-value eConsults see the greatest benefits from their eConsult programs — healthcare cost savings and improved patient outcomes. With considerable time and effort, at-risk practices identify patients at high risk of serious health events, such as emergency department visits or inpatient hospitalizations, and prevent them.

At AristaMD, we are taking this strategy to the next level by considering which specialties have:

  • Long wait times
  • Higher costs
  • Address conditions easily managed in the primary care setting

Using eConsults for specialties with these characteristics is the most likely to drive healthcare cost savings, improve outcomes and decrease the risk of:

  • ED use – a costly alternative to a specialist visit.
  • Unscheduled or canceled specialty care appointments.
  • Boomerang appointments to primary care.

Eric Urquiza

Eric Urquiza

Sr. Vice President of Operations & Client Experience at AristaMD

Eric has 20 years of experience driving transformational healthcare IT programs, advancing patient care, improving access and outcomes for patients through technological solutions. He has been successful in leading many strategic client relationships and increasing provider adoption of telehealth solutions, ultimately leading to strong efficacy for underserved populations throughout the country. Eric holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Redlands.

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