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Memo: An Evidence-Based Wait Time Threshold

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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

Overview

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)