BackgroundManagement of patient flow within a healthcare network, allowing equitable and qualified access to healthcare, is a major challenge for universal health systems. Implementation of telehealth strategies to support referral management has been shown to increase primary care resolution and to promote coordination of care. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of telehealth strategies on waiting lists and waiting times for specialized care in Brazil.
MethodsBefore-and-after study with measures obtained between January 2019 and February 2020. Baseline measurements of waiting lists were obtained immediately before the implementation of a remotely operated referral management system. Post-interventional measurements were obtained monthly, up to six months after the beginning of operation. Data was extracted from the database of the project. General linear models were applied to assess interaction of locality and time over number of cases on waiting lists and waiting times.
ResultsAt baseline, the median number of cases on waiting lists ranged from 2961 to 12,305 cases. Reductions of the number of cases on waiting lists after six months of operation were observed in all localities. The magnitude of the reduction ranged from 54.67 to 88.97 %. Interaction of time measurements was statistically significant from the second month onward. Median waiting times ranged from 159 to 241 days at baseline. After six months, there was a decrease of 100 and 114 waiting days in two localities, respectively, with reduction of waiting times only for high-risk cases in the third locality.
ConclusionsAdoption of telehealth strategies resulted in the reduction of number of cases on waiting lists. Results were consistent across localities, suggesting that telehealth interventions are viable in diverse settings.