3d Health, Inc. Blog

Patient Access to Physicians Falls Short

Aug 20, 2015 1:10:33 PM / by M. Shane Foreman


In today’s hypercompetitive healthcare marketplace, hospitals and health systems are always on the lookout for ways to capture market share and stem outmigration.  What is the best way to do this?  Give patients what they want – access to physicians in a reasonable timeframe.

In our work across the country, 3d Health has found that the median wait time for a new patient appointment is 14 days. Yet, based on a national survey of over 3,000 potential patients we just completed, the typical American expects a new patient appointment within 7.8 days.  And, over half of all respondents expect a new patient appointment within 5 days.


As we began to analyze the results of our survey, we found that patient expectations for access to physicians largely increases as you consider subpopulations of patients. For instance, the results of the survey vary based on gender, age, geography, type of market and income level.

Following are the Top Findings from our survey. 

Finding #1: Men Expect Quicker Access than Women 

On average, men expect a new patient appointment within 7.1 days while women are willing to wait up to 8.3 days. Also, 30.3% of men expect a new patient appointment within 1 to 2 days.  Conversely, there is a small subset of men (11%) that are willing to wait 30 or more days for an appointment. 

Finding #2: The Most Demanding Age Cohort is the 45 to 54 Year Olds

The 45 to 54 year old patients expect access to a new physician within 6.8 days.  And, over 60% of this age cohort expects an appointment within 5 days. Interestingly, patients 65 and older are willing to wait up to 9.5 days on average for a new patient appointment. 

Finding #3: Patients in the South Have Higher Expectations

Survey respondents within the South expect new patient access to a physician within 7.1 days on average. Patients in the Northeast are willing to wait 8.5 days on the high end, while the expectation in the West is 7.9 days and 8.1 days in the Midwest. 

Finding #4: Patient Expectations are Similar Across Market Type 

Patients in urban markets expect a new patient appointment within 7.6 days on average.  This expectation is very similar to suburban markets at 8.0 days and rural markets at 7.7 days. 

Finding #5: Louisiana & Delaware Have the Most Demanding Patients

The average survey respondent from Louisiana expects a new patient appointment within 4.0 days while those from Delaware expect an appointment within 4.1 days.  West Virginia patients expect an appointment within 13.0 days followed by Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine. 

Finding #6: Those Earning between $100,000 and $149,999 are More Willing to Wait 

On average, survey respondents that earn between $100,000 and $149,999 are willing to wait 9.2 days for a new patient appointment. The most demanding income brackets are those that earn between $25,000 and $49,999 as well as $75,000 to $99,999 – both at 7.4 days. 

Through our “secret shopper” calls, we are able to test whether or not physicians are open to new patients, wait times for next and second next new patient appointment, and determine whether the practice offered an alternative, such as a physician partner or Advance Care Provider with better access. 

In order to understand patient access across your physician base, compare it to your competitors’ access, and test the results against patient expectations, please contact Shane Foreman at 312-423-2675 or sforeman@3dhealthinc.com.

Topics: Patient Access to Physicians, Consumer Strategy

M. Shane Foreman

Written by M. Shane Foreman