This report highlights what is known about the patient’s experience in waiting for care in different settings and where gaps exist, and illustrates examples of initiatives that have been successful in improving wait times. It also points to key areas where health system decision-makers could focus attention to address the challenges associated with wait times.
Table of Contents
Waiting to see a family physician
2 days (average)
The majority of Canadians (85%) report having a regular family physician.
One in four report difficulties accessing immediate care for common health problems. Only 15% of Canadians report that these waits are unacceptable.
Waiting for diagnostic tests
MRI: 32–55 days (median)
X-rays usually provide enough information to diagnose conditions for which knee replacement surgery is sometimes prescribed. When more information is required, as in Hani’s case, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required.
In general, X-rays are readily accessible, with most performed on patients the same day as the request. Conversely, patients must wait to have an MRI. In 2011, median waits for MRIs ranged from 32 days in Prince Edward Island to 55 days in Manitoba. Wait times for MRIs have decreased over the last three years.
Waiting to see a specialist
1–3 months (median)
Canadians are more likely to report challenges in waits for specialists than for family physicians, with 1 in 10 waiting more than 3 months. Half of Canadians—Hani included—wait more than a month for a specialist physician visit.
Waiting for knee replacement surgery
3.5 months (median)
Nationwide, in 2011, 50% of patients received knee replacement surgery within 3.5 months, while 75% of patients were treated within the target wait time of about 6 months. Within 9 months, 90% of patients had been treated.
At the national level, there is little evidence that the focus on priority surgical procedures, such as knee replacements, has crowded out other procedures. Variation in patterns of surgical volumes exists at the provincial level but is likely due to jurisdictions pursuing different strategies to address local issues in wait times and access to care.
Waiting for admission to inpatient rehabilitation
2 days (median)
On any given day, approximately 5% of acute care beds are occupied by patients waiting for services to become available in a different health care setting, such as rehabilitative care facilities.
Approximately 1 in 10 knee replacement patients are admitted to inpatient rehabilitation. For those patients waiting for inpatient rehabilitation in alternate level of care, the median wait time is two days.
Waiting for discharge from inpatient rehabilitation
1 day (average)
Patients receiving specialized inpatient care, such as rehabilitation, also wait to move on to their next care setting. On average, those with orthopedic conditions—like Hani—wait one day for discharge.