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For Many Americans: "The Doctor Can't See You Now."

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: February 7, 2007

About 14 percent of Americans in need of health care for sickness or injury either get help too late or not at all, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Lengthy waits for medical tests or emergency room treatment are among the most common problems. Delays range from waiting an overly long time to be seen by an office or emergency room doctor, to waiting a long time to have a test done.

Research shows that lack of timeliness can result in emotional distress, physical harm, and higher treatment costs.

AHRQ found that:

  • Among Americans ages 18 to 64 years, about 19 percent sometimes or never get timely appointments for routine care, as opposed to 9 percent of children and 7 percent of persons ages 65 years and older.
  • The likelihood of getting timely care for an illness or injury is not much better—18 percent of 18- to 64-year-olds, 9 percent of children, and 5 percent of elderly patients sometimes or never get timely care for an illness or injury.
  • From 1997-98 to 2003-04, the percentage of emergency room visits in which the patient left the hospital before being seen increased from 1.2 percent to 1.8 percent.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data from the 2006 National Healthcare Quality Report, which examines the quality of health care across America in four key areas—effectiveness of health care, patient safety, timeliness of care, and patient centeredness.

For additional information on this AHRQ News and Numbers topic, or to speak with an expert, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of February 2007


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