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1.  Access to specialist gastroenterology care in Canada: Comparison of wait times and consensus targets 
BACKGROUND:
Monitoring wait times and defining targets for care have been advocated to improve health care delivery related to cancer, heart, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration. There are few data on access to care for digestive diseases, although they pose a greater economic burden than cancer or heart disease in Canada. The present study compared wait times for specialist gastroenterology care with recent, evidence-based, consensus-defined benchmark wait times for a range of digestive diseases.
METHODS:
Total wait times from primary care referral to investigation were measured for seven digestive disease indications by using the Practice Audit in Gastroenterology program, and were benchmarked against consensus recommendations.
RESULTS:
Total wait times for 1903 patients who were undergoing investigation exceeded targets for those with probable cancer (median 26 days [25th to 75th percentiles eight to 56 days] versus target of two weeks); probable inflammatory bowel disease (101 days [35 to 209 days] versus two weeks); documented iron deficiency anemia (71 days [19 to 142 days] versus two months); positive fecal occult blood test (73 days [36 to 148 days] versus two months); dyspepsia with alarm symptoms (60 days [23 to 140 days] versus two months); refractory dyspepsia without alarm symptoms (126 days [42 to 225 days] versus two months); and chronic constipation and diarrhea (141 days [68 to 264 days] versus two months). A minority of patients were seen within target times: probable cancer (33% [95% CI 20% to 47%]); probable inflammatory bowel disease (12% [95% CI 1% to 23%]); iron deficiency anemia (46% [95% CI 37% to 55%]); positive occult blood test (41% [95% CI 28% to 54%]); dyspepsia with alarm symptoms (51% [95% CI 41% to 60%]); refractory dyspepsia without alarm symptoms (33% [95% CI 19% to 47%]); and chronic constipation and diarrhea (21% [95% CI 14% to 29%]).
DISCUSSION:
Total wait times for the seven indications exceeded the consensus targets; 51% to 88% of patients were not seen within the target wait time. Multiple interventions, including adoption of evidence-based management guidelines and provision of economic and human resources, are needed to ensure appropriate access to digestive health care in Canada. Outcomes can be evaluated by the ‘point-of-care’, practice audit methodology used for the present study.
PMCID: PMC2659137  PMID: 18299735
Access; Benchmark; Digestive disease; Health care; Recommendation; Target; Wait time
2.  Access to specialist gastroenterology care in Canada: The Practice Audit in Gastroenterology (PAGE) Wait Times Program 
BACKGROUND:
Canadian wait time data are available for the treatment of cancer and heart disease, as well as for joint replacement, cataract surgery and diagnostic imaging procedures. Wait times for gastroenterology consultation and procedures have not been studied, although digestive diseases pose a greater economic burden in Canada than cancer or heart disease.
METHODS:
Specialist physicians completed the practice audit if they provided digestive health care, accepted new patients and recorded referral dates. For patients seen for consultation or investigation over a one-week period, preprogrammed personal digital assistants were used to collect data including the main reason for referral, initial referral and consultation dates, procedure dates (if performed), personal and family history, and patient symptoms, signs and test results. Patient triaging, appropriateness of the referral and timeliness of care were noted.
RESULTS:
Over 10 months, 199 physicians recorded details of 5559 referrals, including 1903 visits for procedures. The distribution of total wait times (from referral to procedure) nationally was highly skewed at 91/203 days (median/75th percentile), with substantial interprovincial variation: British Columbia, 66/185 days; Alberta, 134/284 days; Ontario, 110/208 days; Quebec, 71/149 days; New Brunswick, 104/234 days; and Nova Scotia, 42/84 days. The percentage of physicians by province offering average-risk screening colonoscopy varied from 29% to 100%.
DISCUSSION:
Access to specialist gastroenterology care in Canada is limited by long wait times, which exceed clinically reasonable waits for specialist treatment. Although exhibiting some methodological limitations, this large practice audit sampling offers broadly generalized results, as well as a means to identify barriers to health care delivery and evaluate strategies to address these barriers, with the goals of expediting appropriate care for patients with digestive health disorders and ameliorating the personal and societal burdens imposed by digestive diseases.
PMCID: PMC2659136  PMID: 18299734
Access; Digestive diseases; Health care; Practice audit; Wait time

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