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Research Letter |

Disparities in Time Spent Seeking Medical Care in the United States

Kristin N. Ray, MD, MS1; Amalavoyal V. Chari, PhD2; John Engberg, PhD3; Marnie Bertolet, PhD4; Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH5
[+] 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
JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(12):1983-1986. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4468.
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This Research Letter examined data from the American Time Use Survey and found that time waiting for or obtaining medical care was significantly longer for racial/ethnic minorities, individuals with less education, and individuals who are unemployed.

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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