Disparities in Time Spent Seeking Medical Care in the United States

Published in: JAMA Internal Medicine, v. 175, no. 12, Dec. 2015, p. 1983-1986

Posted on RAND.org on March 16, 2016

by Kristin Ray, Amalavoyal V. Chari, John Engberg, Marnie Bertolet, Ateev Mehrotra

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The Institute of Medicine identifies timeliness of care as a key aspect of quality. Racial and socioeconomic disparities exist in receipt of timely appointments and interventions.1 Patient time burden (ie, time spent traveling to, waiting for, and receiving ambulatory medical care) is a separate domain of timeliness. Disparities in this domain have received less attention, although prior work has described inequalities in pediatric emergency department wait time2 and racial disparities in the time adults spend seeking medical care.3 In prior work, using survey data on time associated with medical visits, we estimated that patients incurred $52 billion in opportunity costs obtaining medical care in 2010.4 In this article, we assessed how time associated with medical visits varied across socioeconomic variables and visit characteristics.

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