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Doctors Harder to Find in Western Mass.

A new report released by the Massachusetts Medical Society shows that rural areas of the Commonwealth, including parts of Western Massachusetts, are lagging behind in patient access to care. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The 2012 Patient Access to Care Study, released this week by the Massachusetts Medical Society, details patient satisfaction with health care in Massachusetts. The study took a look at doctor waiting times for new appointments, the ability for new patients to find a doctor, acceptance of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as patient satisfaction, and ability to access information on the internet.

Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the Society, said that patients looking for new primary care physicians might have to wait about 44 or 45 days on average, which he said is similar to the numbers from 2011.

The average wait did increase, which was about 36 days last year. Dr. Aghababian said that the average wait time numbers are leveling off after a spike caused in part by the influx of new patients after Massachusetts helped extend insurance coverage to state residents in 2006.

According to the study, 78%  of heath care recipients polled said their process of obtaining care was not difficult – a figure that rose 21% from four years ago, and 87% said that they were satisfied with care.

However, the study does point out that residents in rural areas are having a harder time finding care. Patients in Hampden County on average have had to wait 99 in their search for internal medicine, and 90 days for those in Berkshire County. The report also shows that in Franklin County, the wait time to obtain a new family care physician was 205 days, the longest in the state. Dr. Aghababian continues…

Spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems Michael Leary says that his organization is taking steps to reduce wait times with their physician recruitment program to bring doctors and practitioners to the area.

Leary added that access to care continues to be a nation-wide issue, but he also hopes that the health care cost containment legislation signed this week by Governor Deval Patrick will help improve access to care.


Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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