New patients are waiting 3.5 days longer for an appointment with a dermatologist 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 dermatologist for a “routine skin exam to detect possible carcinomas/melanomas” was 32.3 days in 2017, a 12.2% increase over the 28.8 days reported in 2014. Investigators called and made appointments with 286 randomly selected dermatologists in 15 large cities in January and February during the fourth such survey the company has conducted since 2004.

This year, the survey also included dermatologists in 15 midsized cities for the first time, and their average wait time was even longer: 35.1 days for the 93 offices contacted. The longest average wait in a midsized city, 91 days, came in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while Odessa, Tex., had a shortest-for-the-group average of 6 days. In the large cities, the longest average wait was 78 days in Philadelphia and the shortest wait was 11 days in Miami, Merritt Hawkins reported.

The survey also included four other specialties – cardiology, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, 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.”

rfranki@frontlinemedcom.com

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