Understanding Wait Times

Introduction

The data on this website is the most current and accurate information available on wait times in Western Health. Data has been supplied and verified by Quality Management and Research staff of Western Health. The data collected does not include personal information on either patients or physicians.

Wait time data, wherever possible, is provided at the level of the facility and is measured in calendar days. Work is ongoing to standardize data and data reporting guidelines across regions, provinces and territories.

Data Sources

Regional Health Authorities are required to report wait time data for services funded by Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health and Community Services. Facilities collect information from physicians and from operating room or scheduling systems. This information is verified by each regional health authority and is submitted quarterly to the Department of Health and Community Services.

No confidential patient data is collected, therefore current data collection processes do not allow for an audit trail back to the original source of the data in the physician's office or a facility's scheduling system. However, every effort is made in ensure data accuracy.

What is Included, What is Not Included

In general, wait time data reported on this website are for non-emergency cases only (i.e. elective cases that are scheduled in advance). Situations where patients receive care through the emergency department of a hospital or otherwise require immediate treatment for a life-threatening condition are excluded from the wait time data.

We are presently collecting wait times for non-urgent or routine examinations for MRI, CT scan, Ultrasound,   Mammogram, Bone Mineral Density and Bone Scan.

As well we are collecting and reporting wait times for some elective surgical procedures.   These include Joint Replacement (hip and knee) and Vision Restoration (cataract surgery).   Wait times for some cancer care surgical procedures for bowel, breast and prostate, are also being collected.

Western Health does not collect wait time data for cardiac related procedures, as this service is not provided at the hospitals under Western Health.

How wait times are measured

Wait times for diagnostic services are based on the third next available appointment for a routine out patient examination.   As a result, diagnostic wait times are estimated wait times. In some cases patients will wait less than the reported wait time, and in other cases some patients may be required to wait longer.

Wait Times for hip and knee replacement surgery, cataract surgery and cancer related surgery are based on the median wait time calculated from three months of data. The median is the point at which half the patients have received their surgery. We also report the 90th percentile, which is the point  at which  90% of patients have received their surgery. Wait times are calculated from the decision to treat date and the patient is ready  to the date the procedure is completed.   Patients who chose to wait for personal reasons are excluded  when  determining  the median wait time.

Median Wait Time

Median wait time: The point at which half the patients have had their treatment and the other half are still waiting is the median wait time. For example, if a median wait time is 4 weeks, this means that half of the patients waited less than 4 weeks, and half waited more than 4 weeks. Unlike the average, the median is not generally influenced by one or two very unusual cases (long or short), and is therefore more stable over time.   This method of reporting is consistent within all health authorities across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador when reporting on a quarterly basis to the Department of Health and Community Services.

Factors Affecting Wait Times:

Many factors that affect wait times are unrelated to the availability of resources or the efficiency of a particular facility. They include:

  • Patient Choice - a patient with a non-life-threatening condition may choose to delay treatment for personal or family reasons to a more convenient time.
  • Patient Condition - treatment may be delayed until a patient's condition improves sufficiently that surgery or a test can be performed.
  • Follow-up Care - a patient with an existing condition may be pre-booked for a follow-up treatment or test to monitor changes in patient condition.
  • Treatment Complexity - specific resources may be required for a patient with special requirements, resulting in a delay until these can be scheduled.

Factors Affecting Wait Time Data:

  • Variability - Wait time data can change dramatically from month to month. It can be affected by seasons, staffing and factors involving equipment.
  • Small Volumes - It is important to note that a wait time calculation based on a very small number of patients over a very short period of time can be misleading, since a few patients with unusually long or short wait times may have a very large influence on the results for that month (particularly the average wait time).