Why We Wait: Physician Opinions on Factors Affecting Health Care Wait Times

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It has become fairly common knowledge that patients in Canada have to wait an inordinately long time for access to health care. The Fraser Institute report from 2010, Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, found that while physicians believed a 6.4-week wait was reasonable for medically necessary elective treatment after an appointment with a specialist, on average, Canadians actually waited for 9.3 weeks. Further, a recent article examining the findings of the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s report on wait times demonstrated that in 2010-2011, approximately 80,000 Canadians didn’t get access to priority treatment areas within the lengthy government benchmarks for wait times.

If governments understand the importance of reining in wait times, and more importantly, if physicians themselves acknowledge that patients are waiting longer than is medically reasonable, what is preventing physicians from providing medical services more expediently?

Physicians’ responses to the Fraser Institute’s annual wait times survey may provide some insight.

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