Featured article| Volume 94, ISSUE 1, P23-31, January 2013

Reducing Waiting Time for Community Rehabilitation Services: A Controlled Before-and-After Trial

Published:August 27, 2012DOI:



      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.


      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.


      Two musculoskeletal CRP teams within a large metropolitan health service.


      All patients referred to both sites during periods preintervention (n=483) and postintervention (n=488).


      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.


      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.


      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.


      List of abbreviations:

      CI (confidence interval), CRP (community rehabilitation program), EQ-VAS (EuroQOL visual analog scale), IQR (interquartile range), OR (odds ratio), STAT (specific timely appointments for triage)
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