Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Memo: An Evidence-Based Wait Time Threshold

Click for list of published reports
Click for topic nomination form
Click for list of reports in progress

Subscribe to the
ESP Report RSS feed RSS feed icon
Memo: An Evidence-Based Wait Time Threshold

Investigators: Kim Peterson, MS Ellen McCleery, MPH Mark Helfand, MD, MPH, MS

Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP) Coordinating Center, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR

Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; May 2014

Download PDF: Memo


In 2001, the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on the Quality of Health Care in America called for a redesign of the U.S. healthcare delivery system and appealed to all healthcare constituencies to commit to reducing delays in care. As a result of several VA strategies to reduce wait-times, the average wait-time for a new primary care VA patient decreased from about 50 to 20 days between 2002 and 2010. However, 10% of VA facilities still had waits of more than 25 days for new primary care patients. Outside of the VA healthcare system, wait-times for a first primary care appointment are seldom measured.

The VA Evidence-Based Synthesis Program Coordinating Center located in Portland, OR reviewed studies of the effects of long wait-times or of wait-time targets in primary care and primary mental healthcare and report their findings in a brief evidence Memo. Investigators discuss several issues related to wait-times both within and outside the VA, including international healthcare systems. Topics covered in the Memo include, but are not limited to:

  • Potential consequences of longer wait-times,
  • Policies to reduce wait-times,
  • Wait-times and outcomes in primary care patients,
  • Effects of delays in mental health, and
  • Measures for wait-times.

See also

Memo: An Evidence-Based Wait-Time Threshold (Management eBrief)

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.