Do Canadians have timely access to specialty care?

ConsultLoop Wait Time Data

Recent discourse on Canadian healthcare has put a stronger emphasis on access to care, especially patient access to specialty care. The CMAJ reported that Canadians wait the longest for specialty care out of 11 countries, based on a survey carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, and released by CIHI.

The statistic that most stood out for us was the following: 56% of Canadians respondents wait longer than 4 weeks to see a specialist. The survey drew from a large sample of 4,600 Canadians.

ConsultLoop is in a unique position to comment on this data. We looked at a sample size of the most recent 1,000 referrals in our e-referral network. We are able to track the wait time from when the family doctor makes the referral to when the patient sees the specialist, and can therefore provide stronger data than surveys given that there’s no recollection bias such as a survey may be subjected to. The numbers are in. Of the last 1000 referrals made on the ConsultLoop e-referral network, 58% of patients saw the specialist within 4 weeks of the referral being made.

Of course, there are limitations to this data which we discussed in fuller detail when responding to the Fraser Report on wait times in Canada. Most importantly, ConsultLoop shows up-to-date wait times for particular providers based on our data at the time that a referral is made. This allows the family doctor to choose a provider with a shorter wait time. This creates a bias for shorter wait times in the data we report, but this also gives that particular patient better access. Surely we can all live with that!

We echo the recent call from Dr. Chris Simpson that Canadians should acknowledge that Canada doesn’t have the best health care system, and that we should become relentless in trying to make it so. We present this data here not to downplay that Canada came last in the Commonwealth survey, but to present hard evidence for ConsultLoop being part of a national solution to improving access.

Solutions are within reach. It’s time to change the “we should” to “we can”, and we are here to help.



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