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Open Access Research article

Public views on a wait time management initiative: a matter of communication

Rebecca A Bruni12*, Andreas Laupacis45, Wendy Levinson5 and Douglas K Martin13

Author Affiliations

1 Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

2 Centre for Clinical Ethics, Toronto, Canada

3 Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

4 Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Canada

5 Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:228  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-228

Published: 5 August 2010



Many countries have tried to reduce waiting times for health care through formal wait time reduction strategies. Our paper describes views of members of the public about a wait time management initiative - the Ontario Wait Time Strategy (OWTS) (Canada). Scholars and governmental reports have advocated for increased public involvement in wait time management. We provide empirically derived recommendations for public engagement in a wait time management initiative.


Two qualitative studies: 1) an analysis of all emails sent by the public to the (OWTS) email address; and 2) in-depth interviews with members of the Ontario public.


Email correspondents and interview participants supported the intent of the OWTS. However they wanted more information about the Strategy and its actions. Interview participants did not feel they were sufficiently made aware of the Strategy and email correspondents requested additional information beyond what was offered on the Strategy's website. Moreover, the email correspondents believed that some of the information that was provided on the Strategy's website and through the media was inaccurate, misleading, and even dishonest. Interview participants strongly supported public involvement in the OWTS priority setting.


Findings suggest the public wanted increased communication from and with the OWTS. Effective communication can facilitate successful public engagement, and in turn fair and legitimate priority setting. Based on the study's findings we developed concrete recommendations for improving public involvement in wait time management.