Export indicator metadata as an Excel file View indicator results as an interactive web page (opens in a new window) or download indicator results as a PDF

Indicator Metadata

NameSpecialist Wait Times
Short/Other Names

Percentage of Population Waiting Longer Than Three Months for a Specialist Visit for a New Illness or Condition

DescriptionThis indicator measures the percentage of the population that reported waiting longer than three months for a specialist visit to obtain a diagnosis for a new illness or condition. "Waiting" is defined as the time between when individuals and their primary care doctor decided that they should see a specialist and when they actually visited the specialist.
InterpretationLower percentages are desirable.
HSP Framework Dimension

Health System Outputs: Access to comprehensive, high-quality health services

Areas of Need

Getting Better

Geographic Coverage

All provinces

Reporting Level/Disaggregation

International, National, Province/Territory

Indicator Results

http://yourhealthsystem.cihi.ca/hsp/inbrief?lang=en#!/indicators/002/specialist-wait-times

Identifying Information
NameSpecialist Wait Times
Short/Other Names

Percentage of Population Waiting Longer Than Three Months for a Specialist Visit for a New Illness or Condition

Indicator Description and Calculation
DescriptionThis indicator measures the percentage of the population that reported waiting longer than three months for a specialist visit to obtain a diagnosis for a new illness or condition. "Waiting" is defined as the time between when individuals and their primary care doctor decided that they should see a specialist and when they actually visited the specialist.
Calculation: DescriptionNumber of people who reported waiting longer than three months for a specialist visit for a new illness or condition divided by the number who reported waiting for a specialist visit for a new illness or condition in the past 12 months
Calculation: Geographic Assignment

Place of residence

Calculation: Type of Measurement

Percentage or proportion

Calculation: Adjustment Applied

None

Calculation: Method of Adjustment

Not applicable

Denominator

Description:
Population age 15 and older reporting wait times for specialist visits for a new illness or condition in the past 12 months

Exclusions:
1. Non-response categories ("refusal," "don't know" and "not stated")

Numerator

Description:
Population reporting waiting longer than three months for a specialist visit to obtain a diagnosis for a new illness or condition
Exclusions:
1. Specialist visits for ongoing care for a previously diagnosed condition

Background, Interpretation and Benchmarks
Rationale

This indicator was developed as a measure of access to health care. Specialist wait times may be influenced by the supply of specialists, access to primary care physicians who provide referrals and organizational practices such as referral and wait list management. An analysis from Statistics Canada found that the factors associated with shorter wait times include whether the condition was considered potentially life-threatening, being a man, being referred by a specialist (versus a family doctor) and having a higher income (Statistics Canada 2010).

This indicator has not received much attention compared with wait times for specific procedures, such as hip fracture surgery. It provides information on wait times for a broader range of specialist services. It can be used to identify jurisdictions where wait times for specialists warrant further investigation and possible action.

Interpretation

Lower percentages are desirable.

HSP Framework Dimension

Health System Outputs: Access to comprehensive, high-quality health services

Areas of Need

Getting Better

Targets/Benchmarks

Not applicable

References

Commonwealth Fund. 2013 International Health Policy Survey — In Chronic Condition. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/interactives-and-data/international-survey-data/results?ind=654&ch=593. Accessed September 13, 2016.

Statistics Canada. Canadian Community Health Survey - Annual Component (CCHS). http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey&lang=en&db=imdb&adm=8&dis=2&SDDS=3226. Updated November 27, 2012. Accessed September 13, 2016.

Statistics Canada. Results. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2010002/article/11144/findings-resultats-eng.htm. Updated April 21, 2010. Accessed September 13, 2016.

Availability of Data Sources and Results
Data Sources

CCHS, Statistics Canada

Available Data Years

Type of Year:
Calendar
First Available Year:
2003
Last Available Year:
2011

Geographic Coverage

All provinces

Reporting Level/Disaggregation

International, National, Province/Territory

Result Updates
Update Frequency

Every two years

Indicator Results

Web Tool:
Your Health System: In Brief
URL: http://yourhealthsystem.cihi.ca/hsp/inbrief?lang=en#!/indicators/002/specialist-wait-times

Updates

Not applicable

Quality Statement
Caveats and Limitations

Regional-level results for Nova Scotia are not available. In 2014, the Health Authorities Act passed by the Nova Scotia legislature consolidated the 10 district health authorities into 2 (1 provincial health authority with 4 management zones, and the IWK Health Centre). Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) data was not available for the new health authority boundaries.

The data year reflects the CCHS survey cycle. Prior to 2007, data for the CCHS was collected every 2 years, involving a sample of 130,000 respondents. In 2007, the survey transitioned to a yearly collection cycle, involving a sample of 65,000 respondents.

Some values have data quality flags that indicate "use with caution" or "suppressed" due to high coefficients of variation: health regions with small populations and results disaggregated by age group or sex within small regions.

The 2-year combined data is less current than annual estimates but has higher precision (less variability). Users should refer to the annual CANSIM Table 105-0501 as the primary source for the most current estimates from the CCHS, as well as to obtain data from previous years. However, where data quality flags indicate suppression (F) or higher variability (E), the 2-year CANSIM Table 105-0502 should be used. Self-reported data is subject to bias.

The CCHS covers the population age 12 and older living in the 10 provinces and 3 territories. Excluded from the survey's coverage are the following:

– Persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces

– Full-time members of the Canadian Forces

– The population of institutionalized persons

– Persons living in 2 Quebec health regions: Nunavik Health Region and Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James Health Region

Altogether, these exclusions represent less than 3% of the target population.

In the North, the frame for the CCHS covers 92% of the target population in Yukon, 96% in the Northwest Territories and 92% in Nunavut. Before 2013, coverage in Nunavut was 71%.

Trending Issues

Estimates for the three territories (Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut) are available for 2005 only. Thus for 2005, the Canada total includes the territories; for other years, the Canada totals do not.

Comments

This indicator is reported with and without age standardization (using the direct method, 1991 Canadian standard population).

Estimates for 2001 are available from the Health Services Access Survey (HSAS). The HSAS was administered to a sub-sample of CCHS respondents in 2001 in the 10 provinces.