Cost to Our Economy of Patients Waiting

Posted on December 8, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I must admit that I’d never really processed the economic value to society of patients spending so much time waiting in the doctor’s office. Sure, I was very familiar with the patient dissatisfaction with patient wait times, but I hadn’t ever thought about it from the economic cost perspective.

At least I hadn’t until I saw this study that tried to quantify the economic costs associated with patient wait times. They calculated that the total annual societal opportunity cost of patient wait times was $52 billion (Note: They used the number of visit data from 2010).

This video dives into some of the details of the study and how that number was calculated:

I understand many of the reasons that doctors have such horrible wait times. Some of them are preventable and some of them are not. Although, when you see the numbers from the study above, it helps you realize what a benefit telemedicine could bring not only to healthcare, but the economy in general. I also think it makes the case for why on demand health care could be such an amazing thing for all of us.

Can you imagine if we had wait times like we do in healthcare in other parts of our lives? Those companies would go out of business. As patients get more selective on how, when, and where they get their healthcare services (thank you high dedcutible plans), this is going to start mattering a lot more.

Side Note: I wonder if the opportunity cost should be lowered now that we have a cell phone in our pocket and can get more things done while we’re waiting. I guess it depends on if we use the cell phone to get work done while we wait or if we play angry birds (some might say that’s a good use of time too).