Novel triage process makes sure patients can access sub-specialists faster
Worldwide, chronic pain affects approximately one quarter of the population—with staggering costs to the individual patient and society. These figures have been increasing with the ageing population and improved survival rates for formerly lethal conditions, such as cancer.
In Quebec, the Centres of Expertise in Chronic Pain receive an incredibly diverse range of patient referrals with a wide variety of chronic pain conditions, some of which require rapid access to treatment. Still, the waits for a first appointment in one of these centres can be up to six years.
Improving on wait time
With the goal of improving on wait time, the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit (AEPMU) of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has developed a novel triage process.
“This began with a survey of more than 50 pain clinics worldwide to see what could be learned from them through best practices,” says Dr. Yoram Shir, director of the AEPMU. “With this knowledge and collaborative work, we have created a unique process to make sure our patients can access the right sub-specialists within an acceptable delay.”
One of the main elements of this novel triage process is the clinician-led group session for new patients, which typically take place within 2–4 weeks from the time of the referral from a physician. “Patients are provided with information on chronic pain, services offered at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit and resources available in the community and online,” says Dr. Shir.
The new process has enabled the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit to cut the average wait time from two years in 2009 to 6 months today, and this in spite of a constantly rising number of consultations over the same period. This is by far the lowest wait time of any tertiary pain management unit in Quebec, and one of the lowest in Canada.
For patients, the shorter wait times have made all the difference.