Study assesses wait times for primary care physicians


While Massachusetts policymakers have been taking victory laps in connection with their health care access and cost control efforts, a study released Wednesday highlights continuing problems for patients. About half of primary care physicians in Massachusetts are closed to new patients this year, reflecting only slight improvement over the past two years, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society’s 2012 Patient Access to Care Study.

Also, the average wait time for new patient appointments in primary care remain at 45 days for family medicine and 44 days for internal medicine. The average wait time for appointments with a pediatrician was 23 days, one day shorter than in 2011.

Patients’ access to specialists is a little easier, with the percentage of specialists accepting new patients as follows: cardiologists, 84 percent; obstetricians/gynecologists, 86 percent; gastroenterologists, 92 percent, and orthopedic surgeons, 98 percent.

The society also reported, based on a phone survey of 403 adults conducted in February, that 87 percent of residents are satisfied with the health care they received and 78 percent said their experience in getting care was not difficult. In a statement accompanying the study results, MMS President Richard Aghababian said, “Our latest research show an improving picture of access to and satisfaction with health care in the Commonwealth. While we continue to have shortages of physicians and average wait times for new patients for primary care are still longer than we’d like them to be, we are seeing more people getting care. And that’s positive.”