Health Care Wait Times by Country 2022

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One of the most critical measures of the quality of a country's health care system is how long patients have to wait to access medical care. But the question of which countries have the shortest wait times is complicated by the different ways that countries measure wait time and the differences in the health care systems of various countries. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measured wait times in several countries, specifically:

  • The share of people who sometimes, rarely, or never get an answer from their regular doctor's office.
  • The share of people waiting one month or more for a specialist appointment.
  • How long a patient has to wait to get "elective" or non-emergency procedures such as cataract surgery, hip replacement, and knee replacement.

Highest, lowest, and average median wait times for non-emergency surgeries (in days):

Procedure Low median High median Overall median
Cataract surgery 24 - Italy 250 or more - Poland 92
Hip replacement 35 - Denmark 282 - Estonia 113
Knee replacement 42 - Italy 839 - Chile 189

As can be seen even from this small sample (full results can be seen in the table below), country-to-country wait times varied significantly.

Are health care wait times longer in countries with universal health care than in the United States?

A common misconception in the U.S. is that countries with universal health care have much longer wait times. However, data from nations with universal coverage, coupled with historical data from coverage expansion in the United States, show that patients in other nations often have similar or shorter wait times.

The U.S. was on the higher side for the share of people who sometimes, rarely, or never get an answer from their regular doctor on the same day at 28%. Canada had the highest at 33% and Switzerland had the lowest at 12%. The U.S. was towards the lower end for the share of people waiting one month or more for a specialist appointment at 27%. Canada and Norway tied for the highest at 61% each and Switzerland had the lowest at 23%.

Health Care Wait Times by Country 2022

Country % Waiting > 1 Day % Waiting > 1 Month (Specialist) Median Days Wait - Cataract Surgery Median Days Wait Hip Replacement Median Days Wait - Knee Replacement
Canada33.00%61.00%66105122
United States28.00%27.00%
Sweden24.00%52.00%517590
Norway22.00%61.00%132123152
United Kingdom21.00%41.00%659298
New Zealand17.00%48.00%828189
Australia14.00%39.00%84119209
Netherlands13.00%25.00%
Germany13.00%25.00%
Switzerland12.00%23.00%
Estonia0.00%0.00%187282461
Finland0.00%0.00%977799
Denmark0.00%0.00%363544
Israel0.00%0.00%775685
Hungary0.00%0.00%364385
Portugal0.00%0.00%119126204
Chile0.00%0.00%97240839
Poland0.00%0.00%246179253
Spain0.00%0.00%74118147
Italy0.00%0.00%245042

Health Care Wait Times by Country 2022

Sources