Determining Average Specialist Wait Time in Community

May 1, 2009

How can we figure out the average wait time, in days, for a new appointment with a rheumatologist in our area? We are investigating adding a physician to our practice. If our waiting period is way out of bounds, that will make our decision easier.

Question: How can we figure out the average wait time, in days, for a new appointment with a rheumatologist in our area? We are investigating adding a physician to our practice. If our waiting period is way out of bounds, that will make our decision easier.

Answer: Open the yellow pages. Pretend you’re a patient and look up every entry for rheumatologist. Call those practices saying, “Hi, I’m new in town, and used to see a rheumatologist where I lived. I’m just wondering when your first available appointment is for a new patient.” You might also ask about the next available appointment. It may be there is an opening today or in a day or two because of a fluke cancellation, but that’s not really what you are after. After you get your answer, say thank you, and hang up. Go on to the next one.

Another way to do this is to contact some internal medicine practices that refer to rheumatologists, maybe including those who refer to you often. Ask them to give you a sense of how easy it is - or not - to get in to see a rheumatologist in your area.

Finally, how is your no-show rate among new patients? If it’s painful and those patients never reschedule, it’s likely they found someone else to treat them while waiting for an appointment with you.