Wait Times Jeopardize Wellness
According to a new report by the Fraser Institute, what was once simply concerning has become wholly unacceptable as reported wait times for medically-necessary treatment eclipsed 20 weeks in 2019, the second-longest wait ever recorded.
Research indicates that wait times for medically-necessary treatments can, and do, have serious consequences such as increased pain, suffering, and mental anguish. In some instances, they can also result in poorer medical outcomes — transforming potentially reversible illnesses or injuries into chronic, irreversible conditions or even permanent disabilities.
What’s most infuriating is that there are solutions that can help. Centralized referral strategies adopted in some provinces have fallen short of the mark. They fail because they fail to empower patients to be active in their care.
What we’ve discovered in our efforts to help patients navigate the system is that the more information each of the stakeholders in the system – patients, GPs, specialists – have, the better they can function as a productive team, working to ensure patients get the care they need as soon as they can.
Wait times for specialist care can be reduced when patients feel empowered to participate in decisions about which specialist to see – and have a clear line of sight to how the process of accessing a specialist works.
In addition, the process is most efficient when the right medical testing and imaging are in place prior to the first appointment. This happens when the process of referral is clearly defined and when patients and physicians are both supported by knowledgeable navigators who can help them access and process the information they need.
The best part? We know it works; we’ve seen people, supported by smart databases and trained system navigators, access specialist treatment on average 220 days sooner than if they had been left on their own.
We need to stop wringing our hands about how awful wait times are and we need to put that same energy into innovative solutions, accessible treatment pathways and useable, empowering information. Our wellness depends on it.