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Management Brief No. 84

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Management eBriefs
Issue 84August 2014

Memo: An Evidence-Based Wait-Time Threshold

In 2001, the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on the Quality of Health Care in America called for a redesign of the U.S. healthcare delivery system and appealed to all healthcare constituencies to commit to reducing delays in care. As a result of several VA strategies to reduce wait-times, the average wait-time for a new primary care VA patient decreased from about 50 to 20 days between 2002 and 2010. However, 10% of VA facilities still had waits of more than 25 days for new primary care patients. Outside of the VA healthcare system, wait-times for a first primary care appointment are seldom measured.

The VA Evidence-Based Synthesis Program located in Portland, OR reviewed studies of the effects of long wait-times or of wait-time targets in primary care and primary mental healthcare and report their findings in a brief evidence Memo. Investigators discuss several issues related to wait-times both within and outside the VA, including international healthcare systems. Topics covered in the Memo include, but are not limited to:

  • Potential consequences of longer wait-times,
  • Policies to reduce wait-times,
  • Wait-times and outcomes in primary care patients,
  • Effects of delays in mental health, and
  • Measures for wait-times.

The full report is available on the Intranet only at

Citation: Peterson K, McCleery E, Helfand M. Memo: An Evidence-based Wait Time Threshold. VA ESP Project #09-199; July 2014.

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This Management e-Brief is provided to inform you about recent HSR&D findings that may be of interest. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you have any questions or comments about this Brief, please email CIDER. The Center for Information Dissemination and Education Resources (CIDER) is a VA HSR&D Resource Center charged with disseminating important HSR&D findings and information to policy makers, managers, clinicians, and researchers working to improve the health and care of Veterans.

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