Research Letter
December 2015

Disparities in Time Spent Seeking Medical Care in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 2Department of Economics, University of Sussex, Brighton, England
  • 3RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 4Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 5Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(12):1983-1986. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4468

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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