Reducing surgical wait times with access software

By Jennifer Garland

Five years ago, the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN) took a bold step to remedy their surgical wait times. Representing one of Ontario’s fastest growing geographic regions, the Central East LHIN needed a solution to enable better management of surgical wait times at the seven hospitals conducting surgery under its jurisdiction and offer support to surgeons needing to manage their wait lists. That solution was Novari Health’s web-based Surgical Access with Smart Wait software system.

Today, the Central East LHIN is proud of its progress in reducing wait times and improving access to care.

“Seven hospitals within Central East LHIN were experiencing a strain on volumes and lacked the ability to proactively manage the system in the absence of real time data to support informed decision making. We lacked access to real-time planning information critical to determining volumes and maximizing returns on funding going into each hospital,” explains Central East LHIN CEO Deborah Hammons.

In January, 2011, a business case identified the need for a “turn-key” software solution that would provide access to a continuum of information from the initial visit to the surgeon to the completion of the procedure. The desired system also needed to be already tested with Cancer Care Ontario, the agency accountable for managing all surgical wait time data in the province through Ontario’s Wait Time Information System (WTIS).

That solution was the adoption and roll-out of the Novari Access to Care software system. This is a widely deployed, web-based enterprise software system integrating specialist offices, hospital booking offices, registration departments, and preadmission clinics. It provides intelligent wait list management, paperless electronic booking of patients, and fully automates reporting of wait times to provincial and federal authorities. It also supports both Ontario Colonoscopy Interim Reporting Tool and Canadian Joint Replacement Registry reporting. Its wait list management functionality makes it intuitively easy for surgical offices to schedule the right patient at the right time helping to ensure the physician, hospital and LHIN meet provincial wait time targets.

“This system’s features were of real benefit to the Central East LHIN, hospitals and surgeons,” explains Karol Eskedjian e-Health Program Manager and Project Manager for the initiative in Central East LHIN, adding: “It gave health service providers the ability to electronically prioritize, track and manage patients waiting for surgery and other treatments across the system. It also incorporated significant patient touch points across the system from the initial booking with the surgeon, to pre-screening, registration, and booking the Operating Room.”

The software system was first introduced to Rouge Valley Health System’s two campuses in Ajax and Pickering in April, 2011. Today, all seven hospitals and over 380 surgeons are using the system, ultimately reducing wait times and improving patient access to care.

“The system is the only web-based software tool available in Canada enabling all levels of health care leadership to understand, manage and control their surgical and other treatment wait times and access to care challenges in real time through the patient journey from decision to treat to the procedure. This collective repository of patient information offers a customized view depending on location and role within the system,” Eskedjian explains.

Supported by the Novari Health solution, hospitals within the Central East LHIN are now able to electronically prioritize, track and manage patients waiting for surgery and other treatments. By electronically sending booking requests to the hospital(s) with attachments, the need for the historical paper trail has been eliminated.

“Hospitals are seeing a reduction in errors. For example, one of the unanticipated benefits is better communication between surgeons and the hospital with 5,000 secure electronic messages about patients monthly instead of telephone and faxes. The Central East LHIN and hospitals now know in real time patients who are waiting for treatment by service, by procedure, by surgeon and how long they’ve waited. This business intelligence information can be used to allocate hospital resources efficiently and reduce wait times,” she adds.

Says Eskedjian, the Central East LHIN is ready to take another leap forward in the realm of improved access to care. “We have recently contracted to provide a regional eReferral and Intake Solution for General Practitioners and the plan is to integrate both systems over the next 3 – 5 years.”

“This is about improving the patient experience by making it easier for patients to access the care they need in the right place at the right time. It is about making it easier for physicians and other health care providers to support their patients using shared data that is current and timely. It is also about continued development of an integrated sustainable health care system ensuring better health, better care and better value,” concludes Hammons.

Jennifer Garland is a communications consultant working with Novari.

This article first appeared in the March 2016 edition of Hospital News and is reposted with their permission.