Universal access to health care is valued in Canada but increasing wait times for services (eg, cardiology consultation) raise safety questions. Observations suggest that deficiencies in the process of care contribute to wait times. Consequently, an outpatient clinic was designed for Ensuring Access and Speedy Evaluation (Cardiac EASE) in a university group practice, providing cardiac consultative services for northern Alberta. Cardiac EASE has two components: a single-point-ofentry intake service (prospective testing using physician-approved algorithms and previsit triage) and a multidisciplinary clinic (staffed by cardiologists, nurse practitioners and doctoral-trained pharmacists).
It was hypothesized that Cardiac EASE would reduce the time to initial consultation and a definitive diagnosis, and also increase the referral capacity.
The primary and secondary outcomes were time from referral to initial consultation, and time to achieve a definitive diagnosis and management plan, respectively. A conventionally managed historical control group (three-month pre-EASE period in 2003) was compared with the EASE group (2004 to 2006). The conventional referral mechanism continued concurrently with EASE.
A comparison between pre-EASE (n=311) and EASE (n=3096) revealed no difference in the mean (+/- SD) age (60+/-16 years), sex (55% and 52% men, respectively) or reason for referral, including chest pain (31% and 40%, respectively) and arrhythmia (27% and 29%, respectively). Cardiac EASE reduced the time to initial cardiac consultation (from 71+/-45 days to 33+/-19 days) and time to a definitive diagnosis (from 120+/-86 days to 51+/-58 days) (P