Frequently Asked Questions
General Information on Wait Times
Supply issues that can contribute to wait times include: a lack of doctors, nurses and technicians; a lack of operating room time; a lack of non-medical services to support patients following surgical care (e.g., support for the patient to be cared for in their home); and a lack of alternative services that would be more appropriate for the patient (e.g., housing and social supports or providing care closer to patients to prevent inappropriate emergency department visits).
Most of the wait times measured in Canada and elsewhere have focused on the wait for surgery; that is, the wait from when a patient and their physician decide treatment is necessary to the start of treatment. However, there can also be waits to see a family physician, waits for diagnostic testing, as well as a wait for a specialist consultation once referred. Adding up all of these points of waiting can lead to a long wait for the patient and that is why wait-time strategies are required across the patient’s journey.
In order to improve the health of the population, improve the patient’s health care experience and to increase the value for money spent on our health care system, we believe that the system needs to be transformed.
Patients, physicians and all health care providers need to work together in the decision-making process. This would lead to better health public policy decisions.
There are many reasons for the high rates of ALC patients, including a lack of community supports to both prevent ALC hospitalizations and to return patients to a more appropriate setting after they receive hospital care (i.e., in the home with proper supports, or in a residential facility). ALC patients have an impact on access to acute care beds, which are in short supply and are required for patients admitted through the emergency department or operating room. On average, one ALC patient in the emergency department denies access to four non-ALC patients per hour. Scheduled surgeries are also affected by high rates of alternate-levels-of-care stays—a lack of available beds for postoperative patients may result in many last-minute cancellations of scheduled surgeries, adding to even longer wait times for patients.
There remains no pan-Canadian definition that is consistently used which makes it difficult to compare rates across the country.
Wait Time Benchmarks
Wait Time Alliance Report Cards
- A treatment that has the highest volume and or greatest return on investment.
- A treatment whose wait time could be significantly reduced with a simple and direct capacity increase of some piece of technology or personnel.
All benchmarks developed by the Wait Time Alliance can be viewed here.
A+: 90-100% of population treated within benchmark
A: 80-89% of population treated within benchmark
B: 70-79% of population treated within benchmark
C:60-69% of population treated within benchmark
D: 50-59% of population treated within benchmark
F: Less than 50% of population treated within benchmark