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Specific timely appointments for triage reduced waiting lists in an outpatient physiotherapy service

Abstract

Objectives

Waiting lists with triage systems are commonly used in outpatient physiotherapy but may not be effective. Could an alternative model of access and triage reduce waiting times over a sustained period with no additional resources?

Design

Observational study comparing retrospective data for 11 months prior to the introduction of a new model of access compared with data for the equivalent 11 months afterwards.

Participants

Patients referred to a physiotherapy outpatient department at an outer metropolitan hospital before (n = 721) and after (n = 707) the introduction of the new model.

Intervention

A model of access and triage known as ‘specific timely appointments for triage’ (STAT), in which appointment slots are preserved in advance specifically for new patients based on calculation of average demand.

Outcome measures

Time from referral to first assessment, number of appointments per patient, occasions of non-attendance and total length of stay in the service.

Results

Median time from referral to first appointment was 18 days [interquartile range (IQR) 11 to 33 days] in the pre-intervention group, compared with 14 days (IQR 9 to 21 days) in the post-intervention group (P < 0.01). The number of physiotherapy appointments also reduced (IQR 2 to 6 vs IQR 1 to 4; P < 0.01). There were no changes in non-attendance rates or total time in the service.

Conclusion

Waiting time for outpatient physiotherapy was 22% lower in the year following the introduction of the STAT model. While acknowledging the limitations of a pre- and post-measurement design, this model may have potential for reducing waiting times for outpatient physiotherapy without additional resources.

Cite this article

Specific timely appointments for triage reduced waiting lists in an outpatient physiotherapy service.

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