Disparities Persist When Finding and Seeing a Doctor

Although everyone ends up spending about the same amount of time with a doctor during an appointment, those who are from certain racial groups and who are low-income spend more time and resources getting care, according to a new study.

The results of the study, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine and on the California HealthCare Foundation’s website, show that blacks and Hispanics spent about a quarter more time than whites traveling to appointments, waiting for them and completing administrative tasks.

Lower-income groups and those who were unemployed also faced longer travel and wait times, the researchers from the HealthCare Foundation found.

“It is important to consider time costs when evaluating new treatment and care delivery models designed to create higher-value, more patient-centered care and to reduce health care disparities,” the report states.

To help reduce the time spent seeking health care, agencies could try to streamline office visits and put clinics in schools, community centers and workplaces, the researchers add. Telemedicine and other electronic tools could also help patients save time.

As a whole, the amount of time Americans spend seeking health care ends up costing billions, the report found.

In 2010, people in the U.S. spent 1.1 billion hours finding health care for themselves or loved ones, at a cost of $52 billion.

Americans spent an average of two hours traveling, waiting and seeing a doctor for an appointment. The appointment only lasted about 20 minutes, but people spent 37 minutes traveling to the office and 64 minutes waiting in the clinic.

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