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Reducing the waitlist of referred patients in a medical specialist outpatient clinic: an observational study

Annie K. Lewis (Eastern Health, Melbourne, Australia) (La Trobe University – Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Nicholas F. Taylor (Eastern Health, Melbourne, Australia) (La Trobe University – Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Patrick W. Carney (Eastern Health, Melbourne, Australia) (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Katherine E. Harding (Eastern Health, Melbourne, Australia) (La Trobe University – Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 7 December 2020

Issue publication date: 5 February 2021

161

Abstract

Purpose

Long waitlists in outpatient clinics are a widely recognised problem. The purpose of this paper is to describe and report the impact of a waitlist reduction strategy for an epilepsy clinic.

Design/methodology/approach

This observational study described the local impact of a methodical approach to tackling a long waiting list, using targeted strategies supported by a modest additional budget. The interventions were described using the template for intervention description and replication (TIDieR).

Findings

Over an eight-month period, the waitlist for the epilepsy clinic was reduced from 599 to 24 patients without increasing the number of days until the next available appointment. Most referrals were removed from the waitlist without an appointment. Auditing revealed a high proportion of patients no longer required the service or referrals remained on the waitlist due to administration error. A short-term increase in clinic capacity of 51 extra appointments met the needs of the remaining waiting patients. The additional project funding invested in this process was AUD $10,500 and a time-limited amount of extra work was absorbed by using existing clinic resources.

Practical implications

This waitlist reduction strategy resulted in a very small waitlist for the epilepsy clinic, which is now well placed to trial further interventions with the aim of sustaining the service with minimal waiting times. Not every referral on the waitlist, particularly the very long waiters, required an appointment. Other outpatient clinics may be able to apply this process to reduce their waitlists using a modest budget.

Originality/value

Although there are reports of successful waitlist reduction, few report the intervention in detail. Use of the TIDieR in reporting enables the intervention to be appraised or adapted to other settings where long waitlists are problematic. Considerations related to implementation of policy are discussed and in this case, a locally led and executed change management strategy was a key to achieving the result.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

A grant from the Eastern Health Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

Citation

Lewis, A.K., Taylor, N.F., Carney, P.W. and Harding, K.E. (2021), "Reducing the waitlist of referred patients in a medical specialist outpatient clinic: an observational study", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 115-130. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-08-2020-0321

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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