Wait Times Alliance Report Card 2014: Time to Close the Gap

The Wait Time Alliance (WTA) has issued national report cards annually since 2007. Initially, their report cards were solely directed at provincial performance in the five areas identified in the 2004 Health Accord: cancer (radiation therapy); heart (bypass surgery); joint replacement (hip and knee); sight restoration (cataract) and diagnostic imaging (CT and MRI).

Since then, the WTA has directed its attention toward:

  1. Broadening the scope to include Canadians’ access to all areas of care.
  2. Improving the quality of public reporting on timely access.
  3. Highlighting issues that contribute to lengthy wait times
  4. identifying best practices toimprove wait times.

The 2014 report card focuses on three main sections:

  • Grading performance for the five initial areas using the pan-Canadian government benchmarks and grading a wider range of procedures/treatments using WTA benchmarks: Unlike the previoud report cards reporting stalled progress and backsliding with respect to provincial grades on wait times, in 2014 there was forward movement, with 67% of all provincial grades an A or A+. This is compared with 58% in 2013. However, there is still wide variation in timely access between some provinces and regions within provinces.
  • Grading emergency department wait times: Canadians wait longer in emergency departments than in other leading countries. 27% of Canadians reported waiting for more than 4 hours while only 1% in the Netherlands and 5% in the UK reported this. However, the length-of-stay wait-time targets for non-admitted ED patients set out by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians in 2013 are being met. Most of these targets are also being met for patients requiring hospital admission. Provinces need to standardize the collection and reporting of ED wait times.
  • Grading provincial wait-time websites: This is an assessment of provincial wait time websites, which are important in pubic reporting of wait time data. Overall, there was improvement in these websites, with a national average of a ‘B’ grade. This is because more provinces are reporting ED wait times, cancer surgery wait times and pediatric wait times. The largest improvement was seen in Nova Scotia. Common issues raised by patients were the lack of website accessibility through a mobile device, small font sizes, and inefficient information display.