Outreach Significantly Reduces Wait Times for New Patients

Munich, Germany
In a case study, a 115-person wait list dropped by almost 50% after a practice implemented a tele-triage protocol.

The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2019 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting (APA 2019) in San Francisco, CA. Psychiatry Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in psychiatry. Check back for the latest news from APA 2019.

SAN FRANCISCO — Telephone triage reduces the wait time for psychiatry appointments and increases attendance, according to a scenario presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, held May 18-22, 2019, in San Francisco, California.

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In 2017, Faraz Khan had a wait list of 9 months with 115 referrals. A tele-triage system was implemented, with a junior doctor telephoning everyone on the list. Patients who expressed an interest in being seen were given a provisional appointment date, with acute patients seen the following week. Others were discharged to their family doctor, accompanied by letters to both patient and doctor. Those who could not be reached by phone were sent a letter asking them to contact the office within 14 days. Three attempts at variable times of day were made to reach non-contactable patients.

Investigators identified 115 patients and the protocol was implemented over the course of 5 weeks. Of these, investigators initially contacted 100 patients.  Of the total number of patients contacted, 90 were given provisional appointments and 10 were discharged. After 14 days, 96 of those who received letters to contact the secretary responded by phone, of which 59 were offered appointments, and 37 were discharged. Finally, 37 failed to make any contact and were discharged.

“The waiting list…6 months into the protocol was 54 with a waiting time of 4.5 months, a 50% reduction. The ‘did not attend’ rate went from 35% to less than 5%,” according to study investigators.

For more coverage of APA 2019, click here.


Khan F. How to halve your new patient waiting list over the telephone. Poster presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 18-22, 2019; San Francisco, CA. Abstract 111.