Health Care Wait Times by Country 2023

How long people wait for medical attention is a significant indicator of a country’s health care quality. Wait times may be measured in various ways, and each country’s health care system is unique, making it difficult to generalize between nations.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tracked wait times in several nations, including the United States and Canada.

  • The percentage of patients who are never or only seldom able to obtain a response from their primary care physician’s office.
  • The percentage of persons who have to wait more than a month to see a specialist.
  • Elective or non-emergency operations such as cataract surgery, hip replacement, and knee replacement are subject to a waiting period.

Non-emergency surgery wait times (days): highest, lowest, and average

ProcedureLow medianHigh medianOverall median
Cataract surgery24 – Italy250 or more – Poland92
Hip replacement35 – Denmark282 – Estonia113
Knee replacement42 – Italy839 – Chile189

Even with this tiny sample (the complete findings are shown in the table below), wait times differed dramatically from country to country.

How long does it take to see a doctor in countries where everyone can access free health care?

Many Americans believe that nations with universal health care have considerably higher wait times. This is a misperception that is not true.

Patients in other countries typically have wait times comparable to or even lower than those in the United States, as shown by statistics from countries with universal health care and historical data from cooperative extensions in the United States.

In the United States, 28 percent of patients received a response from their usual doctor on the same day, which is higher than the global average of 21 percent. For example, Canada had 33% of the global population, whereas Switzerland had just 12%.

Also See: Health Care Costs by Country 2022

When it came to persons who had to wait one month or more to see a specialist, the United States came in at a respectable 27 percent. Switzerland had the lowest percentage at 23 percent, which matched Canada and Norway.

Country% Waiting > 1 Day% Waiting > 1 Month (Specialist)Median Days Wait - Cataract SurgeryMedian Days Wait Hip ReplacementMedian Days Wait - Knee Replacement
United States2827
United Kingdom2141659298
New Zealand1748828189

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