Why Are There Longer Wait Times for Healthcare in Canada? [+Solution]

3 years ago

Every Canadian has a wait-time story. 

They sometimes wait in emergency departments. 

They sometimes wait to see a family doctor. 

They sometimes wait to see specialists. 

Be it the provincial, territorial or federal government, all had nodded to the fact that the Canadian healthcare system has a serious issue which is long wait times. 

In fact - rather than improvising, the situation is getting worse. 

In 1993, the overall wait time in Ontario was around 10 weeks and in 2019, it was 16 weeks! 

If we talk about individual hospital’s wait times at the moment (while writing this blog on 2nd March at 4 am EDT), the Vancouver General Hospital has a wait time of around 3 hours. 

Though this is significantly low, it is still enough to decide the fate of patients! 

However, there is another side of wait time in Canadian hospitals that only a few are talking about. 

Hospital wait times in Canada: is it real? 

The healthcare infrastructure of any country depicts the overall growth of that specific country. 

Thus, let’s not come to the conclusion that there is a high wait time in Canadian healthcare with just a little data. 

We have to check the on-ground situation and scenarios. 

Canada has a universal healthcare system and under which every Canadian can get free healthcare. 

However, the eligibility to get healthcare is all about how urgent the needs of the person needing medical attention. 

For instance, 3 people rush to the ER in a Canadian hospital. 

The first person has a cardiac attack. 

The second person has pain in the ankle. 

And the third person has a cut on the arm. 

Needless to say that the needs of the first person are more urgent as he has a cardiac attack. 

So, healthcare staff may ask the 2nd and 3rd person to wait as they are not going through any life-threatening situation. 

In this manner, Canada’s healthcare system surely has a high waiting time. 

And there is nothing wrong with a prioritized care delivery model - as far as it provides care to patients waiting in queue with non-life-threatening situations before the situation gets worse and it becomes a life-threatening situation.  

Thus, the government had prepared the benchmarks. 

They are nothing but the maximum time a patient should wait for specific treatment because waiting time can leave an adverse effect on patients’ health. 

The following is an example of benchmarks for chronic pain. 

Similarly, here are the benchmarks for the joint replacement. 

Check out the full list of benchmarks here

These benchmarks are clearly showing that Canadian healthcare has long wait times. 

And it doesn’t matter if it is for life-threatening situations or non-life-threatening situations because it is always about rapid and quality care! 

So, it is worth asking, 

Why are there longer wait times for healthcare in Canada?

It is a never-ending debate. 

A few are saying longer wait time is the cost of universal healthcare. 

Whereas some others are saying there are countries having universal healthcare and having less wait time than Canada. 

These tweets show how frustrated people are with long wait times in healthcare. 

Leaving all things behind, let’s discuss the top reasons for long hospital wait times in Canada. 

1. Restriction on private healthcare

In Canada, healthcare is the public-funded system in which the federal government allocates funds to each province and lets provincial governments run the healthcare within a particular province. 

This way, the government is directly responsible for the healthcare system in Canada. 

And because of this, only 70% of total healthcare spending comes from the public sector and only 21% comes from the private sector.  

If both public and private sectors combine the efforts, the wait time would reduce dramatically as it will infuse private healthcare providers into the healthcare system. 

This is also useful: How healthcare system works in Canada? 

2. Overwhelmed healthcare professionals

We all know how overwhelmed our healthcare professionals are as our healthcare system is working at its full capacity - especially during the pandemic. 

The stressful situation in the healthcare center also takes a toll on healthcare professional’s mental health which affects their productivity. 

Additionally, they have to manage tedious paperwork, data entries and other administrative works related to patient care. 

These all unnecessary tasks eat up their time and leave them with only a few hours to see the patients. 

3. Follow-up meetings

Follow-up meetings with healthcare providers are important but many times, a physical follow-up meeting does not serve any purpose but wastes time. 

They could have a virtual or telephonic follow-up meeting which is less time-consuming and as effective as the physical meeting. 

4. High patient no-shows

There are many people who book the appointment with specialists but fail to attend it by mistake or deliberately. 

And when a patient misses the appointment, everyone has to pay. 

A Nova Scotia family practice posted on Facebook that a single month of no-shows wasted 36 hours of physician time. 

This time could have been invested for other patients! 

Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta cite no-show rates of 11% and 20-30%, respectively. 

How to reduce hospital wait time in Canada? - A solution 

To reduce wait time in hospitals or ER, they should reconsider the investment plans and invest in some useful technologies and digital solutions. 

The following are those technologies and digital solutions. 

1. Telemedicine or Virtual Care

Any medical attention which is not life-threatening can be handled virtually using a telemedicine mobile app or website

It enables healthcare providers to offer quality and rapid care without being physically present to the patients. 

A telemedicine solution is so feature-rich that it supports ePrescription, health cards, appointment bookings, medical notes and sick notes. 

This significantly reduces the patients’ footprints in the hospitals and reduces the efforts put in patients’ onboarding and physical meetings. 

Moreover, the built-in smart appointment reminder feature makes sure that there are fewer patient no-shows. 

Explore our telemedicine for hospitals solution.  

2. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology or approach to developing computer software that gets installed on the computer and completes the tasks on it the same as the humans but automatically and with accuracy. 

In other words, the RPA software program performs the time-consuming and repetitive tasks of the healthcare professionals without any assistance. 

This way, it frees up the healthcare professionals from unnecessary tasks that can be managed by the computer program. 

And this eventually creates time for them which they can utilize for patient care. 

Check out use cases of RPA in healthcare


The threat is real. 

If our healthcare system does not respond now, things will get worse and then it would be very difficult to bring down the wait time to a satisfactory level. 

Both federal and provincial governments are working really hard to cope up with long wait times, but it seems their strategy isn’t working as there is no hope nearby. 

The only workable solution we have now is revolutionary healthcare technologies and digital solutions. 

If these won’t help - nothing won’t!