We’ve all been put in the position to wait in line to see our doctor. But a new study shows that our race, ethnicity, educational and social background plays a role in clocking time in the doctor’s waiting room.
For instance, hispanics and blacks were found to spend an estimated 25 percent more time waiting to be seen by a doctor than whites. According to the research team, this could be due to the fact that typically these patients are also the ones who lack proper insurance, have a bad healthcare insurance plan or none at all.
This pushes them to seek health care in community health centers, typically low-cost. Doctor Ateev Mehrotra, lead author of the study and associate professor of health care policy and medicine with the Harvard Medical School, Boston explained that the safety net option when it comes to healthcare is a plausible reason for the increase of waiting time.
Low-cost health care centers lack the level of staffing which is usually met in a private office. As such, their efficiency in handling patients is diminished. From this perspective, Doctor Mehrotra believes that the only way to improve efficiency and cut waiting time is to employ more staff or dismantle the system of overbooking. Scheduling 10 people at the same time will certainly result in longer waiting lists throughout the day.
However, the study findings indicate that once in the doctor’s office or during a consultation patients, regardless of their social background, ethnicity or insurance plan, receive the same amount of time. This is evaluated at approximately 20 minutes.
The study was an analysis on data retrieved from the American Time Use Survey conducted between 2005 and 2013. The Survey is conducted annually to measure how much time U.S. citizens spend with various activities.
Another survey, titled the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey measures the time one patient spends with a doctor during a typical visit. The results of the surveys conducted between 2006 and 2010 were compared with the results of the previous ones.
The findings indicate that white people have to wait on average 80 minutes before getting in the doctor’s office. Blacks wait 99 minutes on average, while Hispanics wait 105 minutes on average.
At the same time, people who are unemployed wait 94 minutes, while those who have low-income wait on average for 80 minutes.
As per educational background, the findings of the study indicate that people who have a high school diploma or less, clock 91 waiting minutes on average, compared to the 76 minutes that people who graduated with a degree from higher education.
The study findings are published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.
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