How Specialist LINK is helping to tip the scale on wait lists

October 17, 2017

Wait lists for Gastroenterology services are down – way down from two years ago and primary care initiatives in the community are helping to make the difference.

In 2014, there were 7,500 referrals sitting on the scale compared with 3,533 today, which is a wait list reduction of 47 per cent. What is driving this change? A number of factors with the largest being physician engagement including the use of program options such as Specialist LINK and managing patients in the medical home.

Specialist LINK began in 2014 and GI specialists were the first to join contributing to the marked tipping of the scale to list reduction and enhancing patient care. “Work still needs to be done to further reduce wait lists and innovation with partners in the Calgary and area health community is working,” says Dr. Mark Swain, Head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Calgary.

In addition to Specialist LINK and the nearly 1,300 GI related calls to the service, increased use and development of programs such as the High Risk Fatty Liver Program at South Health Campus, increased clinic capacity, enhanced primary care referral pathways, partnering with radiologists and NAFLD triage management are making a difference. Hepatology also joined the Specialist LINK service this year.

Presently GI has created five “Enhanced Primary Care Pathway (EPCP)” management letters (Chronic Constipation, Dyspepsia, GERD, H. Pylori Resistance and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to help physicians manage their patients in their medical home.

A snap shot of a two-year audit beginning in 2015 revealed the following about those referrals redirected back to the referring physician to manage the patient in their medical home:

  • 1,266 unique one-time referrals re-directed back to referring source using the tools mentioned above.
  • Average age (male and female):  42.9
  • Of the 1,266 patients, only 15% required Gastroenterologist assessment with 192 proceeding to an endoscopic procedure (i.e. gastroscopy, colonoscopy) with no cases of cancer found.
  • Of the 1,266 patients, 85% are presently being managed within their medical home.
  • Currently, CAT receives up to 1900 paper based referrals per month. 

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