Improving access for community and subacute outpatient services

Dr Katherine Harding1,2, Professor Nicholas Taylor1,2

1Eastern Health, Box Hill, Australia, 2La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia

Objectives  Waiting lists are common in ambulatory and community based allied health services.  This project aimed to explore managers’ perceptions of factors that contribute to waiting times for their services.

Method  A qualitative study was conducted using semi structured interviews with managers and team leaders of eligible services within a large health network.  Interviews were transcribed, coded, and then codes grouped into themes and sub-themes.

Results Representatives from 26 multi-disciplinary or single discipline allied health services participated in the project. Four major themes were identified. Three themes related to reasons and factors contributing to increased waiting time for services: inefficient intake and scheduling processes; service disruptions due to human resource issues; and high service demand. A fourth theme related to the attitude towards waiting and acceptance of waiting lists.

Significance for Allied Health Service providers perceive high demand to be a key driver of waiting times for ambulatory allied health services, but a range of other factors also contribute and may represent opportunities for improving access to care.  These include improving process efficiencies, greater consistency of service delivery through better management of human resources, and shifting to more consumer centred approaches in measuring waiting times in order to drive improvements in patient flow.