How to Reduce the Wait to See a Specialist

Child meeting with a specialist doctor

Wait times to see a specialist have increased during the pandemic. We offer five tips to help reduce your wait time and see a specialist sooner.

Vermont’s healthcare system has been under a lot of strain during the pandemic, and that’s led to longer wait times to see specialist providers. Staffing shortages and difficulty recruiting new healthcare providers are also contributing to the problem.

The wait time to see a specialist in Vermont averages 61 days, according to a recent study by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. In some specialties, the wait can be much longer. For example, the average wait to see a neurologist is 114 days, and it can take upwards of 140 days to see a dermatologist.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait

Treatment of a medical problem can be more complex if you wait to see your provider. There is also the emotional impact of frustration and anxiety, compounded by the physical pain of a prolonged condition.

For those reasons, if you need to see a specialist and the wait is longer than you’re comfortable with, we suggest taking action to try getting an earlier appointment.

Shortening the Wait

Here are some of the things you can do to try getting a specialist appointment more quickly:

  • Check in with your primary care provider. Often your primary care provider can set you on the right path to feeling better, and a quick call to check in is a great first step.
  • Look for a new provider. If the specialist you’ve seen before is booked up, consider looking for another provider in the specialty. Our Find A Doctor tool, and other online sites can help you search for a provider, including specialty medical associations which offer member directories. Often by traveling just a little farther, you can find an excellent provider with significantly shorter wait times.
  • Call around to different practices. Some physician practices are considerably less backlogged than others and can get you in sooner. While the average wait for a dermatologist may be 140 days, the study found some Vermont dermatologists can see a patient in as little as 11 days. Our provider directory can help you find practices.
  • Travel to another part of the state. Wait times for specialists vary significantly by location. The study found that areas with shorter-than-average wait times are Springfield, Randolph, Brattleboro, St. Johnsbury, Berlin, Middlebury, and St. Albans.
  • Be as flexible as possible. It helps if you can be flexible with your schedule. Be willing to make an appointment on days when the provider is less busy, or at off-peak times. If you can show up on short notice, ask the appointment scheduler to put you on their cancelation list in case they have a last-minute opening.