Wait Time Alliance - L'Alliance sur les temps d'attente

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a medically acceptable wait-time benchmark?
It is the threshold wait time for a given health service and level of severity beyond which the best available evidence and clinical consensus indicate that the patient’s health is likely to be adversely affected.

The WTA specifically defines the term “wait-time benchmark” as “health system performance goals that reflect a broad consensus on medically reasonable wait times for health services delivered to patients.”

What is a “wait time” and when does it start?
There can be several different points of waiting during a patient’s journey. The WTA has determined that the initial wait time begins once a physician has made a differential diagnosis; that is, when it is decided that the patient requires diagnostic testing, clinical intervention or both.

What is meant by a wait-time target?
Some people use the term "wait-time targets" to mean wait-time benchmarks. However, the WTA refers to wait-time targets as a timetable for governments to achieve their benchmarks. For example, jurisdiction X's wait-time target will be to have 80% of patients treated within the wait-time benchmark by 2007, moving up to 90% by 2009. In the 2004 First Ministers' Agreement (10-Year Plan to Strenghten Health Care), a commitment was made by provinces and territories to establish their muliyear targets by Dec 31, 2007.

What is the difference between emergency, urgent and scheduled case in terms of wait times?
Emergency: immediate danger to life, limb or organ.
Urgent: situation that is unstable and has the potential to deteriorate quickly and result in an emergency admission.
Scheduled: situation involving minimal pain, dysfunction or disability (also called "routine" or "elective").


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