Abstract

Context: When examining wait times for specialist care, the duration between a patient's referral and specialist visit (wait time one) is poorly understood.

Objectives: To calculate wait time one in primary care clinics across Ontario using chart audit.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart audit at five Ontario-based primary care clinics in 2014–2015.

Results: We analyzed 461 referrals. Median wait time one for non-urgent and urgent referrals was 79 and 49 days, respectively. Gastroenterology, obstetrics/gynecology, and ear, nose and throat received the most referrals. Wait times were longest for dermatology (112 days) and shortest for general surgery (32 days).

Conclusion: Wait times vary substantially by referral urgency and specialty type in Ontario. Calculating wait time from primary care clinics directly offers new perspectives on wait time one and enables clinics to target improvement efforts to best meet patient needs. Our findings will be relevant to providers and policy makers interested in implementing strategies to reduce wait times.