State awaits surveys aimed at seeking solutions to health care delays in Vermont

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 6:22 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2022 at 7:20 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Just over two weeks are left for a survey aimed at quantifying wait times for primary care in Vermont.

It’s the next step in assessing and treating the statewide problem of long wait times for health care.

Nine months ago, state leaders unveiled the results of a sweeping investigation showing some people were waiting for months for specialty care. Many of those challenges have persisted.

This summer, the University of Vermont Medical Center unveiled refreshed data for specialty care like neurology, urology and orthopedic surgery.

The sample of 7,600 patients showed 32% were seeing providers within two weeks.

Leaders say primary care is just as important, and how it coordinates with specialty care.

The state has an anonymous survey out to 134 providers to understand wait times and gaps in the system.

It has been out since the fall and is being collected on Dec. 15.

Leaders describe this as the next step in the wait times investigation.

“We know that primary care is critical to the health and well-being of Vermonters, and we know primary care is important to ensure that our whole system of care is meeting the demands and the needs of Vermonters,” said Ena Backus, the director of Health Care Reform for Vermont.

UVM tells me they’re taking steps to reduce wait times in specialty care by reopening outpatient surgery at Fanny Allen, speeding up the system that people use to schedule appointments, a new MRI machine and weekend appointments for some procedures.

There has been a backlog of people seeking care statewide facing a number of challenges, not just at UVM, like staffing shortages, challenges in discharging patients to longer-term care settings and people checking into the hospital with mental health needs.

Meanwhile, health care reform is moving along. Regulators on Monday voted to extend Vermont’s health care reform experiment. The Green Mountain Care Board voted to extend the all-payer model for another year. This is the big shakeup in how health care is paid for with doctors getting paid flat rates instead of charging for each procedure. The aim of the model is to stabilize skyrocketing health care costs and make Vermonters healthier.