US patients suffer long wait and travel times, which aren’t improving

Doctor's office

In the study, Altarum found that time spent traveling and waiting for medical care exceeded the time spent actually receiving care by about 50 percent. The value of work or leisure time foregone in order to travel to or wait for healthcare professionals amounts to about $89 billion annually.

Everyone, rich or poor, suffers lengthy waiting times. “Even those at high levels of income still see significant travel and wait times,” said Corwin N. Rhyan, the study’s author.

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Those in poor health, however, spend on average 37.6 percent more time per day than healthy individuals on health-related activities, partly because of the time they spend traveling. Rhyan said that high travel and wait times impede individuals from getting access to quality healthcare, making it even harder for those in poor health to get better.

Rhyan advocates for greater use of in-home and tele-healthcare, which would do away with the burden of traveling and would simplify scheduling and paperwork.

“The healthcare system should move toward better scheduling and technology improvements,” Rhyan said. “We have seen greater access but we thought we would see less waiting.”