The Impact of a New Triage and Booking System on Renal Clinic Wait Times.
ABSTRACT: Background:Prolonged wait times are known barriers to accessing nephrology care for patients needing more urgent specialist services. Improved process and standardized triage systems are known to minimize wait times of urgent or semi-urgent care in health care disciplines. In Central Zone (CZ) renal clinic, mean wait times for urgent (P1) and semi-urgent (P2) referrals were prolonged before 2014. We also observed prolonged wait times for elective (P3-P5) categories. Improving wait times was identified as an access to care quality improvement focus in CZ renal clinic of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). Objectives:To describe our new referral process and new triage system, and to examine their effect on number of referrals wait-listed and mean wait times. Design:A quasi-experimental design was used. Setting:Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Participants:Patients referred to Central Zone Renal Clinic between 2012 and 2018. Measurements:A time series of referral counts and wait times for each triage category were measured before our interventions and after implementing our interventions. Methods:We reviewed our referral processes to identify gaps leading to prolonged wait times. On January 1, 2014, we implemented new administrative procedures: pretriage (standardized referral information form and staff training), triage (standardized clinic intake criteria and new triage guidelines), posttriage (protecting clinic spots for urgent and semi-urgent referrals, wait-list maintenance, and increasing new referral clinic capacity). Data were collected prospectively. Descriptive analysis on mean wait times was done using run charts. Results:A 33% reduction in total number of referrals wait-listed was observed over 4.5 years after intervention. Descriptive analysis of the urgent and semi-urgent categories (P1 and P2) revealed a significant shift of mean wait times on run charts after the interventions. Target wait time was achieved in 94% of P1 category and 78% of P2 category. Limitations:This type of study design does not exclude confounding variables influencing results. We did not explore stakeholder satisfaction or whether the new referral process presented barriers to resending referrals that had insufficient triage data. The long-term sustainability of adding demand-responsive surge clinics and opportunity cost were not assessed. Our referral process and triage system have not been externally validated and may not be applicable in settings without wait-lists or settings that use electronic, telephone or telemedicine consults. Conclusion:Our selective intake of referrals with adequate triage information and referrals needing nephrology consult as defined by our clinic intake criteria reduced number of referrals wait-listed. We saw improved wait times for urgent and semi-urgent referrals with these categories now falling within target wait times for the vast majority of patients. The work of this improvement initiative continues especially for the lower-risk triage categories. Trial registration:Not applicable as this was a Quality improvement initiative.
Project description:In some jurisdictions, routine reporting of the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) has led to an increase in nephrology referrals and wait times.We describe the use of the Kidney Failure Risk Equation (KFRE) as part of a triage process for new nephrology referrals for patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5 in a Canadian province.A quasi-experimental study design was used.This study took place in Manitoba, Canada.Demographics, laboratory values, referral numbers, and wait times were compared between periods.In 2012, we adopted a risk-based cutoff of 3% over 5 years using the KFRE as a threshold for triage of new referrals. Referrals who did not meet other prespecified criteria (such as pregnancy, suspected glomerulonephritis, etc) and had a kidney failure risk of <3% over 5 years were returned to primary care with recommendations based on diabetes and hypertension guidelines. The average wait time and number of consults seen between the pretriage (January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011) and posttriage period (January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013) were compared using a general linear model.In the pretriage period, the median number of referrals was 68/month (range: 44-76); this increased to 94/month (range: 61-147) in the posttriage period. In the posttriage period, 35% of referrals were booked as urgent, 31% as nonurgent, and 34% of referrals were not booked. The median wait times improved from 230 days (range: 126-355) in the pretriage period to 58 days (range: 48-69) in the posttriage period.We do not have long-term follow-up on patients triaged as low risk. Our study may not be applicable to nephrology teams operating under capacity without wait lists. We did not collect detailed information on all referrals in the pretriage period, so any differences in our pretriage and posttriage patient groups may be unaccounted for.Our risk-based triage scheme is an effective health policy tool that led to improved wait times and access to care for patients at highest risk of progression to kidney failure.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Universal access to health care is valued in Canada but increasing wait times for services (eg, cardiology consultation) raise safety questions. Observations suggest that deficiencies in the process of care contribute to wait times. Consequently, an outpatient clinic was designed for Ensuring Access and Speedy Evaluation (Cardiac EASE) in a university group practice, providing cardiac consultative services for northern Alberta. Cardiac EASE has two components: a single-point-ofentry intake service (prospective testing using physician-approved algorithms and previsit triage) and a multidisciplinary clinic (staffed by cardiologists, nurse practitioners and doctoral-trained pharmacists). OBJECTIVES:It was hypothesized that Cardiac EASE would reduce the time to initial consultation and a definitive diagnosis, and also increase the referral capacity. METHODS:The primary and secondary outcomes were time from referral to initial consultation, and time to achieve a definitive diagnosis and management plan, respectively. A conventionally managed historical control group (three-month pre-EASE period in 2003) was compared with the EASE group (2004 to 2006). The conventional referral mechanism continued concurrently with EASE. RESULTS:A comparison between pre-EASE (n=311) and EASE (n=3096) revealed no difference in the mean (+/- SD) age (60+/-16 years), sex (55% and 52% men, respectively) or reason for referral, including chest pain (31% and 40%, respectively) and arrhythmia (27% and 29%, respectively). Cardiac EASE reduced the time to initial cardiac consultation (from 71+/-45 days to 33+/-19 days) and time to a definitive diagnosis (from 120+/-86 days to 51+/-58 days) (P<0.0001). The annual number of new referrals increased from 1512 in 2002 to 2574 in 2006 due to growth in the Cardiac EASE clinic. The number of patients seen through the conventional referral mechanism and their wait times remained constant during the study period. CONCLUSIONS:Cardiac EASE reduced wait times, increased capacity and shortened time to achieve a diagnosis. The EASE model could shorten wait times for consultative services in Canada.
Project description:The Wait Time Alliance recently established wait time benchmarks for rheumatology consultations in Canada. Our aim was to quantify wait times to primary and rheumatology care for patients with rheumatic diseases.We identified patients from primary care practices in the Electronic Medical Record Administrative data Linked Database who had referrals to Ontario rheumatologists over the period 2000-2013. To assess the full care pathway, we identified dates of symptom onset, presentation in primary care and referral from electronic medical records. Dates of rheumatologist consultations were obtained by linking with physician service claims. We determined the duration of each phase of the care pathway (symptom onset to primary care encounter, primary care encounter to referral, and referral to rheumatologist consultation) and compared them with established benchmarks.Among 2430 referrals from 168 family physicians, 2015 patients (82.9%) were seen by 146 rheumatologists within 1 year of referral. Of the 2430 referrals, 2417 (99.5%) occurred between 2005 and 2013. The main reasons for referral were osteoarthritis (32.4%) and systemic inflammatory rheumatic diseases (30.6%). Wait times varied by diagnosis and geographic region. Overall, the median wait time from referral to rheumatologist consultation was 74 (interquartile range 27-101) days; it was 66 (interquartile range 18-84) days for systemic inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Wait time benchmarks were not achieved, even for the most urgent types of referral. For systemic inflammatory rheumatic diseases, most of the delays occurred before referral.Rheumatology wait times exceeded established benchmarks. Targeted efforts are needed to promote more timely access to both primary and rheumatology care. Routine linkage of electronic medical records with administrative data may help fill important gaps in knowledge about waits to primary and specialty care.
Project description:Typical stable angina is a clinical diagnosis based on history. The challenge for GPs in primary care is to identify those patients who are presenting with either possible or typical angina symptoms and refer onwards for specialist assessment in the local Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic (RACPC). Our initial information gathering study suggested that referring GPs may be cautiously overdiagnosing angina in primary care, potentially resulting in avoidable or unnecessary referrals to RACPC. We sought a practical and cost effective solution to reducing avoidable referrals by assisting GPs with chest pain discrimination. We tested a change of referral form incorporating chest pain symptom scoring to see whether GP referral quality could be improved and then assessed its impact post implementation. GPs that used the chest pain symptom scoring questionnaire were more than twice as likely to correctly discriminate non-cardiac chest pain. Our post implementation study of the new referral form showed that the proportion of referrals to RACPC with diagnosis of non-cardiac chest pain reduced by almost 19%, and there was a statistically significant 30% fall in the total number of referrals to RACPC. This was likely to be driven by the deterrent effect of the novel referral form on avoidable referrals. Fewer avoidable referrals results in shorter wait times for specialist review, reduces the risk of waiting time breach, and improves RACPC efficiency. In summary, chest pain symptom scoring resulted in improved GP discrimination of chest pain, improved referral quality, fewer overall referrals to RACPC and shorter patient wait times. These benefits were achieved without using additional financial resources and without the time or capital expense of training GPs. These findings could assist GPs and Clinical Commisioning Groups to achieve cost savings by reducing avoidable secondary care referrals.
Project description:An MSK model of care for hip and knee patients integrated with an electronic referral solution (eReferral) has been deployed within four subregions across Ontario. Referrals are sent from primary care offices to a central intake (CI), where the referral forms are reviewed and forwarded, if appropriate, to a rapid access clinic (RAC) where patients are assessed by an advanced practice clinician (APC). The pragmatic design of eReferral allows for a seamless flow of electronic orthopedic referrals from primary care to CI. It also enables CI to process and transcribe faxed referrals into the eReferral system for a smooth flow of data electronically to the RACs. In general, wait time is the time interval between receiving the patient's referral at CI or the surgeon's office until receiving the orthopedic surgeon's first consultation. Wait time is further broken down into wait 1 a and wait 1 b. Wait 1 a is the time between the receipt of the referral at CI until the date of the first initial assessment at the RAC. This study aimed at: a) assessing the processing time of orthopedic referrals at central intakes (CI) to be forwarded to the RAC, b) assessing the wait time (wait 1 a) of orthopedic referrals processed through the eReferral system to receive an initial assessment at the RACs. c) comparing the ability of the RACs to meet the target wait time for assessment (four weeks) by the method of referral (eReferrals vs. fax). d) evaluating patients' satisfaction with the length of time they waited to receive care at the RACs with eReferral. We used Ocean eReferral database to access MSK hip and knee referral data processed through the system. Patients whose referrals were initiated electronically through the system and opted to receive email notification of their referral status had the opportunity to take an online satisfaction survey embedded in the booked appointment notification message. There were 1,723 patients initially referred electronically for hip, and knee pain consults, while 13,780 referrals started as paper-based and transcribed into the system to be forwarded later electronically by CI to a RAC. Higher mean processing time at CI by 21.76 days for paper-based referral was detected as opposed to referrals received electronically (p<0.001). RACs took significantly less time to book appointments for referrals initiated electronically with a shorter average wait 1a of 21.42 days for eReferrals compared to paper-based referrals (p<0.001). RACs timeframe to book an appointment was significantly shorter for eReferrals versus fax referrals. A total of 393 patients completed the patient satisfaction survey with a response rate of 16%. Overall, 87.7% were satisfied with their experience with the eReferral process, and 81% agreed that they had waited a reasonable time to receive the needed care. eReferral can elicit faster processing of referrals and shorter wait time for patients, which improved patient satisfaction with the referral process.
Project description:Electronic referrals can improve access to subspecialty care in safety net settings. In January 2007, San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) launched an electronic referral portal that incorporated subspecialist triage, iterative communication with referring providers, and existing electronic health record data to improve access to subspecialty care.We surveyed primary care providers (PCPs) to assess the impact of electronic referrals on workflow and clinical care.We administered an 18-item, web-based questionnaire to all 368 PCPs who had the option of referring to SFGH.We asked participants to rate time spent submitting a referral, guidance of workup, wait times, and change in overall clinical care compared to prior referral methods using 5-point Likert scales. We used multivariate logistic regression to identify variables associated with perceived improvement in overall clinical care.Two hundred ninety-eight PCPs (81.0%) from 24 clinics participated. Over half (55.4%) worked at hospital-based clinics, 27.9% at county-funded community clinics, and 17.1% at non-county-funded community clinics. Most (71.9%) reported that electronic referrals had improved overall clinical care. Providers from non-county-funded clinics (AOR 0.40, 95% CI 0.14-0.79) and those who spent > or =6 min submitting an electronic referral (AOR 0.33, 95%CI 0.18-0.61) were significantly less likely than other participants to report that electronic referrals had improved clinical care.PCPs felt electronic referrals improved health-care access and quality; those who reported a negative impact on workflow were less likely to agree. While electronic referrals hold promise as a tool to improve clinical care, their impact on workflow should be considered.
Project description:The concept of a General Practitioner with Special Interest (GPwSI) was first proposed in the 2000 National Health Service Plan, as a way of providing specialised treatment closer to the patient's home and reducing hospital waiting times. Given the patchy and inadequate provision of allergy services in the UK the introduction of GPwSIs might reduce the pressure on existing specialist services.This study assessed what proportion of referrals to a specialist allergy clinic could be managed in a GPwSI allergy service with a predefined range of facilities and expertise (accurate diagnosis and management of allergy; skin prick testing; provision of advice on allergen avoidance; ability to assess suitability for desensitisation).100 consecutive GP referrals to a hospital allergy clinic were reviewed to determine whether patients could be seen in a community-based clinic led by a general practitioner with special interest (GPwSI) allergy. The documentation relating to each referral was independently assessed by three allergy specialists. The referrals were judged initially on the referral letter alone and then re-assessed with the benefit of information summarised in the clinic letter, to determine whether appropriate triage decisions could be made prospectively. The proportion of referrals suitable for a GPwSI was calculated and their referral characteristics identified.29 % referrals were judged unanimously appropriate for management by a GPwSI and an additional 30 % by 2 of the 3 reviewers. 18 % referrals were unsuitable for a GPwSI service because of the complexity of the presenting problem, patient co-morbidity or the need for specialist knowledge or facilities.At least a quarter, and possibly half, of allergy referrals to our hospital-based service could be dealt with in a GPwSI clinic, thereby diversifying the patient pathway, allowing specialist services to focus on more complex cases and reducing the waiting time for first appointments.
Project description:In many countries, the referral-consultation process faces a number of challenges from inefficiencies and rising demand, resulting in excessive wait times for many specialties. We collected referral data from a sample of family doctors across the province of Ontario, Canada as part of a larger program of research. The purpose of this study is to describe referral patterns from primary care to specialist and allied health services from the primary care perspective.We conducted a prospective study of patient referral data submitted by primary care providers (PCP) from 20 clinics across Ontario between June 2014 and January 2016. Monthly referral volumes expressed as a total number of referrals to all medical and allied health professionals per month. For each referral, we also collected data on the specialty type, reason for referral, and whether the referral was for a procedure.PCPs submitted a median of 26 referrals per month (interquartile range 11.5 to 31.8). Of 9509 referrals eligible for analysis, 97.8% were directed to medical professionals and 2.2% to allied health professionals. 55% of medical referrals were directed to non-surgical specialties and 44.8% to surgical specialties. Medical referrals were for procedures in 30.8% of cases and non-procedural in 40.9%. Gastroenterology received the largest share (11.2%) of medical referrals, of which 62.3% were for colonoscopies. Psychology received the largest share (28.3%) of referrals to allied health professionals.We described patterns of patient referral from primary care to specialist and allied health services for 30 PCPs in 20 clinics across Ontario. Gastroenterology received the largest share of referrals, nearly two-thirds of which were for colonoscopies. Future studies should explore the use of virtual care to help manage non-procedural referrals and examine the impact that procedural referrals have on wait times for gastroenterology.
Project description:To reduce unnecessary ambulatory gastroenterology (GI) visits and increase access to GI care, San Francisco Health Network gastroenterologists and primary care providers implemented guidelines in 2013 that discharged certain patients back to primary care after endoscopy with formal written recommendations. This study assesses the longer-term impact of this policy on GI clinic access, workflow, and provider satisfaction.An email-based survey assessed gastroenterologist and primary care provider (PCP) opinions about the discharge process. Administrative data and chart review were used to assess clinic access, intervention fidelity, and re-referral rates.102/299 (34%) of PCPs and 5/7 (71%) of gastroenterologists responded to the survey. 74% of PCPs and 100% of gastroenterologists were satisfied or very satisfied with the discharge process. 80% of gastroenterologists believed the discharge process decreased their workload, while 53.5% of primary care providers believed it increased their workload. 6.7% of patients discharged to primary care in 2013 had re-referrals to GI. Wait time for the third-next-available new outpatient GI clinic appointment had previously decreased from 158 days (2012, pre-intervention) to 74 days (2013, post-intervention). In 2015, wait time was 19 days (p?<?0.001 for 2012 vs. 2015).Primary care providers and gastroenterologists are satisfied with an intervention to discharge patients from gastroenterology to primary care after certain endoscopic procedures, although this conclusion is limited by a relatively low PCP survey response rate. Discharging appropriate patients using consensus criteria from the gastroenterology clinic was instrumental in sustainably reducing clinic wait times with low re-referral rates.
Project description:New streamlined models for genetic counseling and genetic testing have recently been developed in response to increasing demand for cancer genetic services. To improve access and decrease wait times, we implemented an oncology clinic-based genetic testing model for breast and ovarian cancer patients in a publicly funded population-based health care setting in British Columbia, Canada. This observational study evaluated the oncology clinic-based model as compared to a traditional one-on-one approach with a genetic counsellor using a multi-gene panel testing approach. The primary objectives were to evaluate wait times and patient reported outcome measures between the oncology clinic-based and traditional genetic counselling models. Secondary objectives were to describe oncologist and genetic counsellor acceptability and experience. Wait times from referral to return of genetic testing results were assessed for 400 patients with breast and/or ovarian cancer undergoing genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer from June 2015 to August 2017. Patient wait times from referral to return of results were significantly shorter with the oncology clinic-based model as compared to the traditional model (403 vs. 191 days; p < 0.001). A subset of 148 patients (traditional n = 99; oncology clinic-based n = 49) completed study surveys to assess uncertainty, distress, and patient experience. Responses were similar between both models. Healthcare providers survey responses indicated they believed the oncology clinic-based model was acceptable and a positive experience. Oncology clinic-based genetic testing using a multi-gene panel approach and post-test counselling with a genetic counsellor significantly reduced wait times and is acceptable for patients and health care providers.