Average American Loses $43 During Each Doctor Visit

by Keith Wagstaff /  / Updated 

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How much does a visit to the doctor's office cost? Around $43 in lost productivity, according to a recent study.

The problem is that people waste a lot of time traveling to and waiting for their doctor.

It took people an average of 37 minutes just to get to their appointment, according to a study published this summer in the American Journal of Managed Care. They then only received 20 minutes of face-to-face time with their physician — less than the 64 minutes they spent filling out forms and sitting in the waiting room, possibly reading old issues of "Cat Fancy" and "Highlights" magazine.

Overall, people spent more than two hours on the average doctor's visit, which means they spent two hours not doing work. Those "opportunity costs" come out to $43 in lost productivity--more than the $32 most people paid out-of-pocket for their visits.

Even worse, across several minority groups, the wait for care is even longer. On average, according to a letter published Monday by the same researchers in JAMA Internal Medicine, black, Hispanic and unemployed people spent 25 percent to 28 percent longer on medical visits. That's mostly because of longer waiting times in clinics.

Those opportunity costs are even more burdensome to lower-income people, the researchers said, who often can't afford to take several hours away from work to visit their doctor.

"In the United States, opportunity costs of seeking care are substantial for the average individual," the study in the American Journal of Managed Care said. "For every dollar of direct medical expenditures for ambulatory physician visits, 15 additional cents were spent on the indirect costs of patient time."

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