The Economics of Healthcare Wait Times
When it comes to waiting in line, we all have our own opinions and philosophies on how long to wait, how to pass the time, coming up with alternatives to waiting, and so on. Waiting in line at the grocery store? If you pick the ‘wrong line’ (and we’ve all done it), it will cost you more time than you might like, but probably no big deal. Waiting to access healthcare? That could be a much bigger deal. Not only might you be enduring a stressful and/or painful medical condition, but things could be worsening quickly – every day counts!
Many of us in Canada aren’t accustomed to thinking about the financial cost of healthcare, but it is becoming more and more of a focus as the ups and downs of a volatile global economy has everyone paying close attention to how money is being spent. As evidence supporting the notion that time is money, some pretty big numbers from the Frasier Institute and the Canadian Medical Association as they address the cost of healthcare wait times in Canada. According to Frasier Institute, in 2014 the average user of the Canadian healthcare system waited 18.3 weeks between initial diagnosis and start of treatment. With several hundred thousand patients in the system at any given time, cost of lost time and wages while these patients waited to start treatment is estimated at $3.7B. Cost estimates are much higher ($15B or more) when we factor in lost government revenues and reduced economic activity…all due to healthcare wait times! Wouldn’t it be a nice problem to have – to have to decide how to spend some of that money if wait times decreased even just a little?
Being an empowered healthcare consumer can help you to make more informed decisions and even access proper care in a more timely way. It doesn’t cost anything to become more informed, but it could bring you more value than you could ever imagine.