9th Annual Vitals Wait Time Report Released

30% of Patients Have Left A Doctor Appointment Because of Wait Time

NEW YORK--()--There are several factors that come together to create a satisfying patient experience – clean office, friendly reception, attentive physician. Add to that list a reasonable wait time.

Now in its 9th year, the Vitals Index finds that 84 percent of people believe wait time is either “somewhat important” or “very important” to the overall experience at a doctor’s office. In fact, 30 percent of people reported they’ve walked out of an appointment due to long waits. What’s more, 1 in 5 report they’ve changed doctors because of long wait times.

The importance of wait time can be seen in the correlation between the amount of time a patient waits and a doctor’s average rating. Physicians with five-stars, the highest doctor rating on Vitals, had a 13-minute, 17 second wait on average. In contrast, doctors with a 1-star, the lowest rating, had a wait time average of 34-minute, 11 second wait.


Wait Time Effect on Doctor Rating



Average Wait

5   13 min, 17 sec
4   21 min, 32 sec
3   22 min, 11 sec
2   29 min, 34 sec
1   34 min, 11 sec

Surprisingly, people with poor access to health care were more likely to walk out of an appointment because of a long wait time. Only 20 percent of people who reported having excellent access to top-quality doctors said they’ve walked out of an appointment because of a long wait. In comparison, 53 percent of people who reported having poor access to health care have left a doctor’s office due to long waits.


Across specialties, the average wait time for a doctor in America currently stands at 18 minutes, 13 seconds. That’s down 22 seconds from last year, and the fourth consecutive decrease in wait times.

But how long a patient waits depends on where they live. For the second year in a row, Milwaukee ranked on top with the shortest wait time of 14 minutes 35 seconds. El Paso has been riding an even longer trend. For seven years, the city has placed at the bottom of the ranking. In fact, its average wait time increased one minute year-over-year, to an average 26 minutes 50 seconds.


2018 Cities with Shortest Wait Time

City   Average Wait Time
Milwaukee   14 min, 35 sec
Seattle   14 min, 38 sec
Saint Paul   14 min, 43 sec
Minneapolis   14 min, 55 sec
Portland   15 min, 6 sec

2018 Cities with Longest Wait Time

City   Average Wait Time
El Paso   26 min, 50 sec
Memphis   23 min, 44 sec
Miami   22 min, 29 sec
Las Vegas   21 min, 19 sec
Fort Worth   21 min, 1 sec

On the state level, Wisconsin leapfrogged New Hampshire for the lead this year. The Granite State added two minutes to their wait time over last year. The bad news is that for states at the bottom, the wait is only getting longer. Nearly all the states in the bottom five added one minute to their wait time year-over-year. For the fourth year, Alabama ranked last with an average wait time of 22 minutes, 19 seconds.


2018 States with Shortest Wait Time

State   Average Wait Time
Wisconsin   13 min, 23 sec
New Hampshire   14 min, 17 sec
Washington   15 min, 2 sec
Maine   15 min, 8 sec
Minnesota   15 min, 10 sec

2018 States with Longest Wait Time

State   Average Wait Time
Alabama   22 min, 19 sec
Mississippi   22 min, 13 sec
West Virginia   21 min, 23 sec
Louisiana   20 min, 35 sec
Nevada   20 min, 29 sec

So what do people do as they wait for a doctor? As a sign of the time, 44 percent said they look at their phone or another electronic device. But doctors shouldn’t cancel their magazine subscriptions just yet. About 55 percent said they browse through the stacks of glossies in waiting rooms.

Vitals’ annual Physician Wait Time Report, now in its ninth year, was compiled from patient-reported wait times from 2008 through the end of 2017. Vitals also surveyed over 675 online respondents in a March 2018 poll.

About Vitals

Vitals empowers everyone to shop for their health care like an expert. Our integrated high-tech, high-touch platform helps people select better, more affordable care. Vitals leads the market with incentive and engagement programs proven to drive new levels of activation. Our solutions achieve measurable and sustainable savings for consumers, employers and health plans. Over 280 million people each year rely on Vitals to help them decide on their care with confidence.

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Rosie Mattio, 917-583-6349


Rosie Mattio, 917-583-6349