Making waiting times for medical care shorter and more fair was the aim of this multidisciplinary western Canadian project. Currently, waiting lists are not standardized, coordinated, or managed in any comprehensive way. Involving a consortium of four provincial health ministries, seven regional health authorities, four medical associations, and four health research centres, this project developed practical, physician-scored tools to measure the level of urgency in patients waiting for care in five clinical areas: cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements, general surgery, MRI scanning, and children’s mental health. Clinicians found the priority-criteria tools to be valid and valuable, most so in the areas of general surgery and hip and knee replacement and least so for MRI scanning. Regional health authorities supported the methods of assigning patients to waiting lists, although there was evidence of resistance to change.
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.