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Health Policy. 2010 Sep;97(1):44-52. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.02.013. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Making sense of delays in outpatient specialty care: a system perspective.

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St. Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, The Netherlands.



To assess whether delays to outpatient specialty care can be solved by improving the way supply and demand are matched, without adding capacity.


A systematic review of the interventions applied by 18 clinics using the model of 'advanced access' and a statistical analysis of the effects of the interventions on their delays.


The clinics applied different combinations of interventions aimed at improving the way they match supply and demand, improving the efficiency of the way supply is organised and at reducing unnecessary demand. Fourteen clinics show statistically significant improvements. Two probably significantly improved and two clinics did not. Their access reduced on average 55%, from 47 to 21 days.


It seems that delays in outpatient specialty care can be solved to a large extend by improving the way supply and demand are matched. Policy makers should analyse whether delays are caused by capacity problems or matching problems. For the latter, it appears more effective to invest in the ability to react then the ability to plan. Policy makers should create incentives for clinics to keep access short and remove incentives that stimulate delays.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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