Appointment wait times are a neglected dimension of children's access to psychiatry. We systematically examined how long an adolescent waits for a new patient appointment with a psychiatrist for routine medication management. From state directories, we identified 578 providers of adolescent psychiatric care in Ohio. Researchers posing as parents telephoned randomly selected offices, seeking care for a hypothetical 14-year-old patient under different scenarios. Overall, we measured 498 wait times at 140 unique offices. The median wait time was 50 days (interquartile range = 29-81 days). In adjusted models, adolescents with Medicaid waited longer than those with private insurance, especially during the spring (geometric mean = 50.9 vs. 41.9 days; p = 0.02). Wait times also varied markedly by region, with geometric means ranging from 22.4 to 75.1 days (p < 0.01). This study demonstrates that adolescents often experience lengthy wait times for routine care. This methodology represents a useful approach to real-time monitoring of psychiatric services.
Keywords: Adolescent; Appointments and schedules; Health insurance; Medicaid; Mental health services; Patient simulation.