New patients are waiting 4.3 days longer for an appointment with a cardiologist in 2017 than they did in 2014, according to physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins.

The average wait time for a new patient to see a cardiologist for a checkup was 21.1 days in 2017, an almost 26% increase from the 16.8 days reported in 2014. Investigators called and made appointments with 259 randomly selected cardiologists in 15 large cities in January and February. It was the fourth such survey the company has conducted since 2004.

This year, the survey also included cardiologists in 15 midsized cities for the first time. The average wait time in these cities was even longer: 32.3 days for the 87 offices contacted. Odessa, Tex., had the longest average wait in a midsized city – 63 days – while Albany, N.Y., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had a shortest-for-the-group wait of 10 days, Merritt Hawkins reported. In the large cities, the longest average wait was 45 days (Boston) and the shortest wait was 12 days (Dallas and Houston).

The survey also included four other specialties – dermatology, family medicine, ob.gyn., and orthopedic surgery – and the average wait time for a new-patient appointment for all 1,414 physicians in all five specialties in the 15 large cities was 24.1 days, an increase of 30% from 2014. The average wait time for all specialties in the midsized cities was 32 days for the 494 offices surveyed, the company said.

“Physician appointment wait times are the longest they have been since we began conducting the survey,” Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins, said in a written statement. “Growing physician appointment wait times are a significant indicator that the nation is experiencing a shortage of physicians.”


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