HomeHealth For YouUnderstanding Hospital Waiting Times

Understanding Hospital Waiting Times

Hospital waiting times are a concern among many Singaporeans. In an ageing population with increasingly complex illnesses that require expensive and sophisticated healthcare, being able to get to that care is a major worry for many. The Ministry of Health’s Patient Satisfaction Survey 2015 cites long waiting time for public healthcare services as a major concern. Patients logically assume that shorter waiting times mean better care, fewer complications, better outcomes and higher quality of life.

What can be done to improve the waiting times of patients at public healthcare facilities? Some solutions include expanding capacity (e.g., build more hospital beds), increasing resources applied (e.g., add manpower), changing processes and expanding downstream capacity (e.g., create more home care and other community services, which in turn releases hospital capacity).

But improving the quality of care across the entire spectrum of health services cannot come from focusing on one parameter at a time. The healthcare system is what is called a ‘complex adaptive system’, where a large number of parts interact dynamically in a non-linear manner, themselves constantly responding to these interactions. Simple direct solutions do not work well in such situations, and adjusting one part causes ripples of effects across the system, often in unpredicted or even unpredictable ways.

This working paper considers the complexity of hospital waiting times, the challenge of local and international comparisons, the multitude of factors that influence waiting times and their perceptions, and what can be done to manage the experience of patients and their families.

Read the paper here: Understanding Hospital Waiting Times


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