Wait time management strategies for total joint replacement surgery: sustainability and unintended consequences

Abstract Background:
In Canada, long waiting times for core specialized services have consistently been identified as a key barrier to access. Governments and organizations have responded with strategies for better access management, notably for total joint replacement (TJR) of the hip and knee. While wait time management strategies (WTMS) are promising, the factors which influence their sustainable implementation at the organizational level are understudied. Consequently, this study examined organizational and systemic factors that made it possible to sustain waiting times for TJR within federally established limits and for at least 18 months or more.

The research design is a multiple case study of WTMS implementation. Five cases were selected across five Canadian provinces. Three success levels were pre-defined: 1) the WTMS maintained compliance with requirements for more than 18 months; 2) the WTMS met requirements for 18 months but could not sustain the level thereafter; 3) the WTMS never met requirements. For each case, we collected documents and interviewed key informants. We analyzed systemic and organizational factors, with particular attention to governance and leadership, culture, resources, methods, and tools.

We found that successful organizations had specific characteristics: 1) management of the whole care continuum, 2) strong clinical leadership; 3) dedicated committees to coordinate and sustain strategy; 4) a culture based on trust and innovation. All strategies led to relatively similar unintended consequences. The main negative consequence was an initial increase in waiting times for TJR and the main positive consequence was operational enhancement of other areas of specialization based on the TJR model.

This study highlights important differences in factors which help to achieve and sustain waiting times. To be sustainable, a WTMS needs to generate greater synergies between contextual-level strategy (provincial or regional) and organizational objectives and constraints. Managers at the organizational level should be vigilant with regard to unintended consequences that a WTMS in one area can have for other areas of care. A more systemic approach to sustainability can help avoid or mitigate undesirable unintended consequences.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 19 janvier 2018 à 11 h 10 min.