Transforming Access to Care in Northwestern Ontario: Centralized Waitlist Management Models

Executive Summary

Like most parts of Canada, Northwestern Ontario has been facing challenges related to patient wait times, equity, access to care, and health care service backlogs. To address these issues, the region has successfully implemented centralized waitlist management models, also known as central intake models, across various health care services. This document examines how Northwestern Ontario has successfully transformed access to care for patients, with a focus on the following services:


  • Surgery & Endoscopy Central Intake
  • Medical Imaging & Referral Management Central Intake
  • Cardiovascular Central Intake
  • Wound and Skin Care Central Intake
  • Chronic Disease Central Intake

The implementation of centralized waitlist management models in Northwestern Ontario was made possible through Ontario Heath funding, capable leadership, a deep understanding of the benefits of central intake models, and the use of enabling technology from Novari Health. This paper can serve as a blueprint for other regions looking to improve patient care and reduce wait times.

1.    Introduction

Long wait times and unequal access to care have been significant concerns for patients and health care providers in Ontario, particularly in the Northwest. In response, several hospitals in the area, including Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Dryden Regional Health Care, Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Riverside Health Care, North of Superior Health Care and St. Joseph’s Care Group, have joined forces to address these challenges head-on.

2.    Central Intake Models: An Evidence-Based Approach to Improving Access to Care

Academic research has shown that centralized waitlist management models, or central intake models, can significantly improve access to care, reduce wait times, and balance the demand for health care services equitably across all available providers. By consolidating the management of patient waitlists, these models can streamline the referral process, optimize resource utilization, and promote better coordination of care.

3.    Implementing Central Intake Models in Northwestern Ontario 

Northwestern Ontario began its journey to improve patient care by implementing Novari Health’s ATC surgical waitlist management and eBooking solution integrated with Meditech. The success of this initial implementation led the region to expand its use of Novari Health technologies for centralized waitlist management in the following areas:

  • Surgery & Endoscopy Central Intake
  • Medical Imaging & Referral Management Central Intake
  • Cardiovascular Central Intake
  • Wound and Skin Care Central Intake

“Northwestern Ontario is progressing a digital health strategy to be a leading health system – enabled by innovative digital transformation. At the centre of our vision is a person, patient, client where each person is surrounded by a person-centric record and where clinicians work seamlessly in a single record and other tools link into and leverage the health record. As technology changes we will continue to innovate our tools.” Cindy Fedell, Regional Chief Information Officer, Northwestern Ontario Hospitals

These implementations have had a positive impact on patient care and wait times throughout the region. Furthering efforts to improve patient access to care, the Northwest will expand their central intake pathways in 2023 to include Chronic Disease Central Intake.


4.    Integration with Ocean and Benefits of the Novari eRequest® System

Integration with Ocean has further streamlined the referral process by automating data transfers, reducing manual entry, and enhancing communication between care providers. Incoming referrals aggregate in the Novari inbox, ensuring a consolidated list of clients for efficient referral management. Novari Health referral management software compliments Ocean referrals and Meditech by providing unique technology to manage and implement customized complex pathway workflows and integrations. The combined use of Ocean eReferral and Novari’s referral management solutions help to streamline workflows and ensure that the right patients get to the right providers at the right time with the right clinical information.


5.    Benefits of Central Intake Models in Northwestern Ontario

The implementation of centralized waitlist management models in Northwestern Ontario has resulted in several key benefits:

  • Reduced wait times for patients seeking care
    • Since its implementation, the Novari ATC OR bookings platform has reduced the average wait time for hip or knee replacement surgery to less than 6 months.
  • Equitable access to specialized care
  • Improved access to care across the region
  • More equitable distribution of health care resources
  • Enhanced collaboration among health care providers
  • Greater efficiency in managing patient referrals

By implementing centralized waitlist management models, Northwestern Ontario has been able to successfully exceed surgical targets, even during the challenges of the pandemic. Over the past two years, the Ontario Ministry of Health’s surgical recovery funding, along with the integration of Novari software, has enabled the Northwest to surpass hip and knee surgical targets by 25%. This exceptional accomplishment has played a crucial role in supporting surgical recovery efforts, as the Ministry of Health prioritizes reducing surgical waitlists. The utilization of Novari software has been a key factor in achieving these targets and significantly reducing wait times for the longest waiting patients. The Novari software has critically enabled a hub and spoke model of care to ensure the Northwest fully utilizes its operating room capacity across 4 sites.


6.    Conclusion

Northwestern Ontario has demonstrated that centralized waitlist management models can effectively address issues related to patient wait times and access to care. By leveraging the right technology and fostering strong collaboration among health care providers, these models have the potential to significantly improve the quality and efficiency of health care services in other regions as well. The success seen in Northwestern Ontario can serve as a model for other areas looking to implement similar solutions and achieve better outcomes for patients and providers alike.

About Novari Health

Novari Health designs, builds, and implements award-winning enterprise scale SaaS solutions that improve access to care, coordination of care, and the delivery of healthcare services. Based in Kingston Ontario and with offices in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Novari is one of the largest Canadian based digital health solution providers. ISO 27001 certified, Novari Health is a Microsoft Gold Partner, with software solutions hosted on Microsoft Azure Canadian and Australian cloud data centres.