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Meet Pierre – A Waiting Game

Health Wellness Success Stories

Not so Fun Fact

The average person will spend a total of 6 months of their lifetime waiting in line for things, 43 days on hold with automated phone services, and 27 days waiting at bus platforms. That’s a lot of standing around and waiting.

But what about some of the less obvious waiting we do in life? Like waiting for medical treatments, for example.

Wait Time Conundrum

The Canadian healthcare system has consistently struggled with wait times, and it seems only to get more challenging. In 2017, the average wait time between a doctor’s visit and a specialist consultation climbed to 10.2 weeks, and 10.6 weeks between the specialist consultation to the treatment. Even a simple diagnostic scan (CT scan or ultrasound) can carry an average wait time of 3-4 weeks. This means that a patient could be waiting 5-6 months to receive treatment!

The picture is even less clear than that. Wait times can vary wildly from province to province, town to town, and even hospital to hospital. Take ultrasounds, for example. While Ontario residents had an average of 2 weeks’ wait in 2017, neighbouring Quebec registered an average of 8 weeks’ wait – the highest in the country! Patients are even having trouble getting appointments at private clinics, and the fees can vary immensely.

4 Months to Help

In the constant discussion for a countrywide solution, individual patients are left to their own devices to find out about various wait times and options. Pierre was one such patient. After consistent abdominal pain, he had consulted his doctor and was recommended for an ultrasound to help diagnose the problem. The recommended clinic had a wait time of 4 months, so Pierre checked other clinics in the area. The response was always the same – 3-4 months’ wait. “So long just to get an idea of what might be wrong with me?” says Pierre, then he smiles. “What a bellyache!”

Undaunted, Pierre widened his search. He checked hospitals and clinics, he searched online, he even asked friends if they could “get him in” with any friends or relatives who were doctors. He didn’t care if he went to a public or private clinic – he was willing to pay fees to help diagnose the source of his pain earlier. He just didn’t know how to find the information.

Skip the Line

In the end, Pierre used a service – Health Navigator – provided by his employee benefits which connected him to a health information specialist. They furnished him with information about clinics in his area (and beyond) that offered ultrasounds, wait times for each, and fee information for the private clinics. Together they were able to find a clinic that could give him the ultrasound he needed in just 2 days. “Just knowing that was an option was helpful,” says Pierre. “I just wanted to get the diagnosis process started.”

It’s estimated that in 2017, over a million people across Canada were waiting for some kind of medical procedure in 2017 – 2.7% of the population. That would make for quite a crowded bus platform, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps, like Pierre, we need to do more than just stand around and wait.


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