Reducing Waiting Time for Community Rehabilitation Services: A Controlled Before-and-After Trial Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether a simple alternative (specific timely appointments for triage [STAT]) to the more common approach of managing demand using a waitlist with a triage system could reduce waiting time for a community rehabilitation program (CRP) without adverse impacts on patient care. DESIGN: A prospective, controlled before-and-after trial. Preintervention and postintervention data were collected for 6 months in 2 consecutive years. STAT was introduced at an intervention site and compared with a control site using a triaged waitlist. SETTING: Two musculoskeletal CRP teams within a large metropolitan health service. PARTICIPANTS: All patients referred to both sites during periods preintervention (n=483) and postintervention (n=488). INTERVENTION: Under STAT, clinicians created a specified number of assessment times each week based on average referral numbers, and patients were immediately allocated an appointment on referral. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the time from referral to first appointment; secondary outcomes included program duration, quality-of-life scores (using the EuroQol EQ-5D), and unplanned hospital admissions. RESULTS: Waiting time decreased from a mean of 17.5 days to 10.0 days (P<.01) at the intervention site, with no significant change at the control site. Intervention site patients were over 3 times more likely to be seen within 7 days than control site patients (odds ratio, 3.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.2-4.9). Secondary outcomes did not differ significantly between groups. CONCLUSIONS: A simple alternative to using a triaged waitlist to manage CRP referrals reduced waiting time without adversely affecting care. Results were sustained over 6 months with no additional resources.

publication date

  • January 2013