Table 3:

Suggestions for communication about wait times

Communication aspectSuggestion (theme and exemplar quote)
Patients and family
ContentEducate patients and the public — explain why there is a backlog
“Even though time estimates may not be possible, just giving any qualitative information explaining what’s going on, what the bottlenecks are, what’s being attempted, what’s making things more difficult. Definitely makes you more sympathetic, understanding and happier with the situation.” — Patient 7, PT Focus Group 1
Regular updates of position on wait-list
“Is it possible to see where your name falls on a wait-list? Without giving away other people’s personal information. ‘You are number 126 on a list of 341 hip replacements for 2021’ and you can see your name, move up or down the list on a weekly or daily basis and you can track it so you can sort of have some sense of when it’s going to happen.” — Patient 10, PT Focus Group 2
MechanismDigital (email, phone app, website or patient portal)
“I’m an email person. I would like to have had something that I could look back on to refresh my mind about why things were happening.” — Patient 10, PT Focus Group 2
“Having an electronic patient record I can access and where I can see updates on my wait times would also be helpful.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Any means of communication is useful
“It doesn’t really matter. As a young person who’s pretty tech savvy, I don’t really care. I just need the information, whether it’s through a portal, or my family doctor, or the surgeon’s office or through the Ministry.” — Patient 5, PT Focus Group 1
Two-way communication and an opportunity to ask questions
“The people who are in charge of booking procedures are not necessarily empowered to take the time to explain things to you.
They go through things very quickly. When you’re stressed or anxious, it’s hard to retain the information, and English is not my first language. Even if I’m a high-functioning person, and they want to be very efficient and book, book, book, it’s like, I need you to tell me all this, and then send it to me in an email so I can review. And if I have questions, I can go and ask you or someone. Give me a resource that I can talk to. Because everything I was told was rapid fire ‘you need to do this, you need to do that,’ I was confused. And then they sent me a requisition and I didn’t know what to do with them. So it was very difficult for me to have all of that thrown at me all at once, and no invitation to ask any questions.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Ensure equitable access to information among vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups that may lack technology (e.g., cell phones or Internet)
“I think you need to find some equity in terms of how some of this information will be shared. One of the things to think about is how to reach patients of colour, Indigenous people, those who have, don’t have access to electronics, or cell phones or emails. I think that should be said, definitely be at the forefront, as we think about communication strategies.” — Patient 6, PT Focus Group 1
SourceSingle group dedicated to communication
“Having dedicated communication units solely devoted to communicating with patients and they’re experts in that, they have the time to do it, it’s their job.” — Patient 9, PT Focus Group 2
Health care leaders
ContentEducate the public — publish wait times and explain why there is a backlog
“What we need from the Ministry is clear communication and that this is a very complex issue and is going to take somewhere between 2 and 4 years to even reasonably address what the backlog currently is, let alone what the wait-list was before the pandemic that many of us were struggling with.” — Health care leader 6, HCL Focus Group 5
Disagreement: Cause fear, overload emergency services
“It’s going to cause fear and we’re going to end up seeing patients coming through to emerg to try to get in, there is a risk for that. Our emerg is already backlogged and cases are coming in. I think there will be panic and fear.” — Health care leader 4, HCL Focus Group 5
Communicate degree of uncertainty to mitigate expectations
“More messaging around the fact that there is going to be a massive amount of uncertainty around this. And just because you have a snapshot of data that you think really represents the reality on the ground, when we know that there are many reasons why that data doesn’t actually reflect what our day-to-day reality is. It may be easier said than done.” — Health care leader 13, HCL Focus Group 3
Disagreement: feasibility not likely
“Messaging to the public about expecting uncertainty in your health care is probably accurate. Although I must say I just don’t see government actually doing that because they’re all about certainty and providing the assurance, and the government would never come out and say ‘Sorry folks, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll do the best we can,’ although that’s probably the reality.” — Health care leader 10, HCL Focus Group 3
Refrain from using the word “elective”
“If I could have any wish in the world right now it’s to remove the word ‘elective’ from everyone’s lexicon and change it to a word that has a better impact on the public.” — Health care leader 10, HCL Focus Group 3
“We all had to come up with our own definitions of urgent or semiurgent.” — Health care leader 14, HCL Focus Group 4
MechanismEngage surgeons in system-level decision-making
“I think it’s important that government keep the key stakeholders informed of what’s going to be happening or and seek some advice from people in the surgical communities, because I find that some of the provincial tables are a little distanced from actual practice.” — Health care leader 2, HCL Focus Group 1