Home / Blog / The Promise of Telemedicine & Shorter Appointment Wait Times

Long wait times, often the first thing associated with health care and doctor visits, have been on the rise over the past few years. Research shows patients are spending more and more time booking and waiting for an appointment. When physician practices across 15 metropolitan areas were surveyed, the average wait time for a new patient to see a physician within 5 medical specialties was 18.5 days. In Boston, 66 days were reached before seeing a family doctor. While Dallas excelled by having the shortest wait time, 5 days is still a long time to wait if you’re experiencing a cold, pink eye or some other symptom that requires immediate care.

So, you’ve waited the 5 or so days leading up to your appointment, you enter your doctor’s office, give them your name and updated insurance information (if you’ve got it), and you’re asked to take a seat. How long do you expect to wait before you’re seen? The average wait time in America is 19 minutes and 16 seconds according to a Vitals.com survey.

But what if you can’t wait the 5 to 66 days it takes to be seen by your primary care doctor? What other options do you have? The next place consumers typically look for is a retail clinic or urgent care facility. 69% of urgent care facilities have a wait time of less than 20 minutes while 28% have a wait time between 21 and 40 minutes. The smaller 3% have more than a 40-minute wait.

appointment wait times

Data Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ahcd/nhamcs_emergency/2011_ed_web_tables.pdf

Now, you’ve got a long wait time to see your primary care doctor and you’re experiencing a medical issue after 7pm, the typical time that urgent care facilities close, where do you go to next? Likely the emergency department if it is an illness that you’d like to have checked out sooner rather than later. A 2011 report on Emergency Departments reported that 45.6% of patients waited over one hour to see a medical professional.

There’s a 4th option for medical care and it’s not a secret. Telemedicine. According to eVisit, the wait time for most telemedicine visits is approximately 20 minutes, cutting out the days leading up to an in-person visit. This also eliminates the need for traveling to an in-person office and wait with other sick, contagious patients.

appointment wait times

Data Source: RelyMD Post-Consult Patient Surveys

In comparison to all the above options, RelyMD data shows that 88.2% of our patients wait less than 10 minutes for their telemedicine visit with our emergency medicine physicians.

In addition, there are patients who go to the Emergency Department for conditions that are life threatening and cannot be treated through telemedicine, but not all patients need to do this. In our post consult survey, about 7.6% of patients successfully treated by RelyMD would have gone to an Emergency Department. These are the individuals who would most likely wait over an hour compared to less than 15 minutes! But even those patients could be seen sooner in the future. There are now doctor offices, urgent care facilities, and emergency departments who are utilizing telemedicine services on-site to reduce their own wait times.

Many factors contribute to long wait times; insurance plan policies, inefficient offices, high-demand providers, unnecessary last-minute visits, and many other circumstances. Even still, l as appointment wait times climb or decrease, the option to see a doctor at any time of the day or night from the comfort of home and for less than what a typical visit costs will often be the winning choice.


Written by Scott Caflisch, March 16, 2017 


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