Sunday, November 13, 2011

French survey reports a long wait for the doctor

Almost 60% of French people surveyed say they have given up going to see a specialist because the delay was too long for an appointment. This result from a poll by the IFOP (Institute Francais d’Opinion Publique) Jalma consulting firm, published in the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) and reported in Figaro, November 13, 2011.

According to those interviewed, it took an average of 103 days to see an ophthalmologist, 51 days a gynecologist, 38 days for a dermatologist, and four weeks for a cardiologist, otolaryngologist, psychiatrist or a rheumatologist.

Getting in to see a specialist in a hospital practice is also hard. A referral to a specialist means a wait of 31 days for a hospital-based cardiologist or 29 days for an office visit; seeing a hospital radiologist takes an average of 21 days or 13 days to see a radiologist in their office.

When the wait seems too long, people choose to go to the emergency room: 27% of respondents say they have used the ER for reasons of time or cost. Up to 58% of respondents say they have given up on at least one appointment with a specialist because of the wait; 33% have done so several times. Some 28% have given up because of geographic distance.

To see a general practitioner, the period is much shorter and is, on average, four days. However, 15% of respondents say they have not made an appointment with a GP because of the distance to the office.

The perception of delays is different depending on whether you ask patients or practitioners. Jalma conducted a parallel survey of 600 doctors who gave different results, reporting much shorter waits.

"There is a big gap between perception and reality for the French. The wait for an appointment described by the doctors are much shorter. This means that practitioners and their patients are not available at the same times," is how Matallah Mathias, president of Jalma, interprets the differences. He suggest that specialists need to adjust their schedules for their patients: "Many will hate this conclusion but specialists must make the change in how they operate to increase access," he argued.

The survey was conducted online from August 29 to September 4, 2011 with responses from a representative sample of 1001 people 18 years or older.

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