Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rates of Surgery and Wait Time Strategies

The quickest way to decrease health care wait times in the office is to give more time to patient groups. But what will happen to the others? If the data from ICES and the Ontario Wait Time Strategy (located here) is to be accepted then surgical procedures will not be affected. More procedures per year means less waiting (assuming there is a minimal increased need for a procedure). I’m not sure how well this translates to the office but on a yearly basis the number of non-priority surgeries did not change in Ontario despite giving priority to other programs. In the office, I believe it means that priority can be given to some blocks of patients without hurting others. Certainly, in diabetes care it’s been shown that increased wait does not necessarily mean worse control.

At the back of the document there are some caveats, not the least of which is the short time frame this was studied over and the effect on more specialized services. As a front line person I can say that groups (that are not monitored) are definitely affected adversely by the priority programs. Also, the government has given more beds and OR time to the programs (orthopaedics, cancer, cataract and cardiovascular) so it stands to reason that not only will these programs just add cases (not necessarily to the detriment of others) but they’ll also be able to do more of they’re own cases.

The government has to act somewhere to start improving our health care wait time problem. This is as good a place as any. I would encourage the government to start looking at efficiencies as priority booking will eventually hurt other programs as the system continues to 100% utilization.

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